Nov 11, 2019

Axios Pro Rata

By Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Top of the Morning

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo by Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images.

No, I don't know why Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said what he did about Saudi Arabia and Jamal Khashoggi, during our "Axios on HBO" interview. Let alone why he doubled down.

  • But he did, and quickly backtracked (first via phone an hour later, then via an official statement the next day). Now let's move on to the other stuff, both aired and un-aired:

On financials:

Khosrowshahi stuck with his calendar 2021 profitability target, adding that ride-hail is now profitable on a cash-flow basis.

"I think that when you go public, Silicon Valley is coming to Wall Street and it's their party. You have to play by their rules."

On drivers:

Khosrowshahi maintained his company's position that the tech platform, not drivers, are core to Uber's business — a piece of legal jiu jitsu that's designed to help Uber side-step California legislation that would reclassify gig economy workers from independent contractors to employees.

  • He acknowledged that, were drivers to all stay home tomorrow, Uber wouldn't make money. But apparently they still aren't "core." Same goes for riders.
  • He pushed back hard against the idea that drivers are underpaid, or that the majority struggle financially (he estimated the figure at around 5%, globally), and said he wouldn't support driver unionization.
    • To support his argument, Khosrowshahi noted: "As we talked about, we're losing money. So it's not like we're taking huge cut."
    • But, remember, he also said Uber's rides business is now profitable.

On autonomy:

Khosrowshahi expects "some version of autonomous for very simple tasks and or in simple environments in the next three to five years."

On safety

Khosrowshahi said that if a rider complains of assault by a driver, Uber will now ask if the rider wants to inform that police and, if so, "absolutely connect them with the police."

  • It will not inform the police without rider consent.
  • He added that Uber today doesn't have a "three strikes" rule for drivers as recently reported by The Washington Post.
  • "Totally false. There is no three strike rule. It's based on a bunch of different factors... A lot of allegations that that story made were true three, four years ago before we made safety a top priority."

On Elizabeth Warren:

"I don't think she'd be an existential threat to Uber. I think that she has a view of large company behavior, some of it, I think, justified. And I think a lot of it unjustified.
I think a lot of her points, which is there are people in power in the financial industry and in the technology industry as well who haven't been transparent enough, who have built platforms that are incredibly powerful, and haven't been responsible enough with those platforms of power, I think that comes from a real place."

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Blackstone Group agreed to buy a majority stake in Magic Lab, the owner of dating apps Bumble and Badoo, at an enterprise value of around $3 billion.

  • Why it's the BFD: This represents a heartbreaking loss for Match Group, whose love/hate relationship with Magic Lab has included both takeover efforts and lawsuits. Now Match will be forced to watch as Magic Lab and Blackstone get more serious, likely leading to an IPO ceremony.
  • CEO shuffle: Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd becomes CEO of Magic Lab, and retains most of her stake. Magic Lab founder and CEO Andrey Andreev sells his entire position to Blackstone.
  • Bottom line: "Bumble sets itself apart from other dating apps with its requirement that women initiate a conversation that might lead to a date. Blackstone aims to help it expand into more geographies and to continue branching out into facilitating nondating-related social meetups." ⁠— Miriam Gottfried, WSJ
Venture Capital Deals

🚑 Akeso, a Chinese antibody developer focused on oncology and immunology, raised nearly $150 million in Series D funding. Loyal Valley Capital and Sino Biopharma co-led, and were joined by OrbiMed, Lake Bleu Capital, AIHC Capital, Shenzhen Capital Group Co., and CDG International Co.

Voi, a European e-scooter service, raised $85 million in Series B funding from Balderton Capital, Creandum, Project A, JME Ventures, Raine Ventures, Kreos Capital, Inbox Capital, Rider Global, and Black Ice Capital.

GuRu Wireless, a millimeter-wave technology startup, raised $15 million in Series A funding from Kairos Ventures and Bold Capital Partners.

Hundred, a New York-based personalized vitamin brand, raised $8 million led by Insight Partners.

Alpaca, a platform for developing brokerage apps, raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Spark Capital.

Chaser, a London-based cloud credit control startup, raised $4 million. Fuel Ventures led, and was joined by Sussex Place Ventures and Beacon Capital.

Flavourworks, a London-based gaming studio that incorporates filmed content, raised £3 million in Series A funding. Hiro Capital led, and was joined by Sky Ventures.

Private Equity Deals

BGH Capital of Australia agreed to buy listed New Zealand dental care chain Abano Healthcare for around NZ$300 million.

Butterfly Equity agreed to buy a majority stake in Orgain, an Irvine, Calif.-based maker of organic and “clean” protein powders, shakes, and nutrition bars.

Dyal Capital agreed to buy a 20% ownership stake in private debt lender Owl Rock Capital for a reported $500 million.

Main Post Partners invested in Sugared + Bronzed, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based provider of sugaring and sunless tanning services.

Starwood Energy Group agreed to buy Third Coast Midstream’s gas gathering infrastructure, located in and around Lavaca, Texas. Third Coast is owned by ArcLight Capital.

Public Offerings

Saudi Aramco on Saturday published the IPO prospectus for Aramaco, the world's largest oil-producing company. Axios' Ben Geman has more.

🚑 89bio, a San Francisco-based metabolic drug developer, raised $85 million in its IPO. The company priced 5.3 million shares at $16, versus plans to offer 4.4 million shares at $15-$17. Its initial market cap is $193 million, and it will trade on the Nasdaq (ETNB) with BAML as lead underwriter. Shareholders include OrbiMed (41.2% pre-IPO stake), Longitude Venture Partners (24.9%), RA Capital (21.6%), and Pontifax (11.5%).

36KR Holdings, a Chinese online publisher of tech news, raised $20 million in its IPO. The company priced 1.4 million shares at $14.50, versus early plans to offer 3.6 million shares at $14.50-$17.50, for an initial, fully-diluted market value of $581 million. It began trading on the Nasdaq (KRKR) with Credit Suisse and CICC as lead underwriters, and lost nearly 10% on its first trading day..

🚑 Inhibrx, a La Jolla, Calif.-based developer of biologic immunotherapeutics, withdrew registration for a $75 million IPO. Backers include Viking Global Investors.

Liquidity Events

OLX Group, the classifieds business of Prosus (AS: PRX), agreed to invest up to $400 million into Frontier Car Group, an online used car marketplace that’s raised $170 million in prior VC funding. Some of the proceeds will be used to buy out existing shareholders, which include Balderton Capital, TPG Growth, Fraser McCombs Capital, EchoVC, Frontier Ventures, Perpetual Ventures, and Autotech Ventures.

🚑 The Riverside Co. sold Censis, a Franklin, Tenn.-based provider of surgical instrument tracking and workflow SaaS, to Fortive (NYSE: FTV).

More M&A

Centrica (LSE: CNE) and Stadtwerke Muenchen Group launched a sale process for Spirit Energy, a North Sea-focused oil and gas producer, per Reuters.

CIBC agreed to sell 66.7% of FirstCaribbean Bank to GNB Financial Group will for US$797 million.

EML Payments (ASX: EML) agreed to buy Prepaid Financial Services, a London-based prepaid card company, for around US$290 million.

Golden Tours, a London-based sightseeing group, is seeking a buyer for around £100 million, per The Daily Telegraph.

🚑 Novartis (Swiss: NOVN) agreed to buy the Japanese generic drugs unit of South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare (JSE: APNJ) for upwards of €400 million (including a €100m earnout).


BC Partners is considering an €8.5 billion target for its eleventh flagship buyout fund, which would begin marketing early next year, per Bloomberg.

Insight Partners is targeting $7.25 billion for its tenth flagship growth equity fund, per public pension documents.

Dan Primack

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