Trump to private equity: You're welcome
The White House yesterday unveiled its tax reform principles, and they read like an obscenely-generous gift to alternative investment managers. Hedge funds? Yup. Private equity funds? Yup. Venture capital funds? Yup. Real estate funds? Oh, you'd better believe it.
- Key point: Trump's plan would tax pass-through entities at 15%, whereas they currently are taxed at individual rates. This basically makes the carried interest debate irrelevant.
- Result: This is officially aimed at small businesses, but pass-through treatment also applies to a lot of hedge funds and real estate funds (e.g., ones structured as LLC's). Moreover, funds organized as limited partnerships likely would restructure to qualify as pass-through entities for tax purposes (or at least firms would be sure to raise the next one that way). In short, such fund managers could pay a flat 15% tax on all of their income, including annual management fees on which they currently pay individual rates.
- More goodies: There is no mention in the White House plan about changing the deductibility of interest on debt. But if you're an individual who currently gets to deduct student debt interest, you'll be out of luck.
- But about carry: There was no mention of carried interest taxation during yesterday's WH presser, but Treasury Secretary Mnuchin was asked about it last night by Tucker Carlson on Fox News. Even though Carlson's question explicitly mentioned both hedge funds and private equity, Mnuchin replied only in reference to hedge fund managers, saying the Trump remains committed to eliminating their carried interest tax loophole. Carlson tried again, with the same result (here's video of the exchange). But, again, it doesn't matter if carried interest is considered capital gains or ordinary income if the entire fund just gets reclassified as a pass-thru entity. 15% for all.
- Caveat: What the White House unveiled will not become law. It's got zero revenue offsets and, save for pie-in-the-sky economic projections, would inflate the national debt like a toddler bouncy house. The devilish details are still to come, so alternative managers aren't quite off the hook yet ― but should be comforted in knowing that they have a tax ally in a President who vilified them on the campaign trail.
The FCC's ban on merger talks will be lifted this evening, and Wall Street is positively giddy about what might come from all that pent-up frustration. Axios' David McCabe lays out some big possibilities:
- T-Mobile + Sprint: Combining T-Mobile and Sprint would create a stronger competitor to wireless giants AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile comes to the table with loads of spectrum it purchased in the FCC's auction. The Obama administration scuttled an earlier merger attempt, citing competitive concerns about going from 4 national wireless carriers to 3.
- Verizon + Charter: Verizon could benefit from Charter's extensive network of in-the-ground broadband. That would let it expand its fixed broadband business and to link its wireless customers up with wifi hotspots to lessen the load on its cellular network.
- Dish + Verizon: Dish brings to the table a massive amount of spectrum from previous auctions and an entryway into the content business through its Sling TV product.
Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing giant, is in the process of closing on a new funding round that would garner upwards of $6 billion at around a $50 billion post-money valuation (up from its prior private mark of $34 billion). Bloomberg reports that backers would include SoftBank, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, China Merchants Bank Co. and Bank of Communications Co. A source tells Axios that company management would retain a majority of voting rights.
- Why it's the BFD: Didi is beginning to approach Uber valuation levels, but without nearly as much competition in its primary market. This also would make it China's most valuable startup.
- One dark cloud: "Cities including Beijing and Shanghai have imposed stricter regulations that have crimped revenue growth. Among them, drivers have to be local residents to work for Didi, cutting out thousands from the countryside who had been willing to take chauffeur jobs to make a better living." ― Lulu Yilun Chen
• Floor & Décor, a Smyrna, Ga.-based retailer of hard surface flooring and related accessories, raised $185 million in its IPO. The company priced 8.82 million shares at $21 per share (above $16-$18 offering range), and will trade on the NYSE under ticker symbol FND. BofA Merrill Lynch served as lead underwriter. The company reports $43 million of earnings on $1.05 billion in revenue for 2016, and is owned by Ares Management and Freeman Spogli & Co. http://bit.ly/2pCJc7J
• Verona Pharma, a London-based developer of therapeutics for treating respiratory diseases, raised $78 million in its IPO. The company priced 5.8 million shares at $13.50 per share, and will on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol VRNA. Jefferies and Stifel served as lead underwriters. Shareholders in the pre-revenue company include Novo AS (15.5% pre-IPO stake), Vivo Capital (15.4%), OrbiMed (12.3%), NEA (11.7%), Abingworth (9.3%), Arix Bioscience (7.5%), Aviva PLC (6.4%), Biodiscovery (5.9%), Tekla Capital (5.9%) and Aisling Capital (4%). www.veronapharma.com
• Accolade Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based VC and growth equity firm, has closed its sixth fund with $235 million. www.accoladepartners.com
• Rebecca Miller has joined Slow Ventures as VP of brand and community. She previously was founder and CEO of event planning company MartiniBird. www.slowventures.com
• The Rise Fund, a social impact fund co-founded by Bill McGlashin (TPG), Bono and Jeff Skoll, has made the first hires for its education sector team: John Rogers (ex-Bridges Ventures) as sector lead and Arne Duncan (former U.S. Ed Sec) and Rick Levin (CEO of Coursera) as senior advisors.
• Tim Smith has joined venture firm Bee Partners as head of portfolio operations. He previously founded a consulting firm called Applied.Design. www.beepartners.vc