Aug 12, 2019

Axios Pro Rata

By Dan Primack
Dan Primack

Situational awareness: Cathay Pacific shares plunged after the airline said it may fire employees who participate in "illegal" demonstrations, such as the one today that shut Hong Kong's airport, and that it will comply with Beijing's demand that any protesting employees be barred from flying to mainland China.

Top of the Morning

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Reunited, and it feels so good?

CBS and former sister company Viacom reportedly are preparing to announce a merger, after months of negotiations.

  • Management and board composition of the combined company appear set, with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish as top dog.
  • Variety reports that both boards spent the weekend haggling over the merger's share exchange ratio, and the WSJ just broke a current range of between 59 and 60 cents.
  • No new corporate name yet, although I hear Tronc is available.

Why it matters, per Axios' Sara Fischer, is that CBS-Viacom could become a media acquisition platform in order to significantly increase scale.

Why it matters less: Without those bolt-on acquisitions, CBS-Viacom remains quite small in comparison to rivals like Disney, Amazon, and Netflix — all of which are aggressively investing and could become rivals for whatever CBS-Viacom wants to buy.

Coming attractions: WeWork is expected to publicly file its IPO prospectus within the next 48 hours, setting up a post-Labor Day listing.

  • What to look for: Changes the SEC may have requested since WeWork filed confidentially, particularly around the company's unique metric of "community-adjusted EBITDA" and CEO Adam Neumann's personal real estate holdings.

Salt-y: Anthony Scaramucci, once President Trump's most vocal Wall Street surrogate, believes that Republicans should at least consider a change atop the Republican presidential ticket. He tells Axios' Jonathan Swan:

"We are now in the early episodes of 'Chernobyl' on HBO, where the reactor is melting down and the apparatchiks are trying to figure out whether to cover it up or start the clean-up process."

Failure to launch: Vector, a launch platform for small satellites in low Earth orbit, has suspended operations and fired its CEO due to what it calls "a major change in financing."

  • Last October, Vector announced $70 million in Series B funding led by a fundless sponsor called Kodem Growth Partners. Other backers included Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners, Sequoia, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Shasta Ventures.
  • Kodem's website is currently down, and partner Avi Lindenbaum hasn't returned my call. Kodem appears to have raised $18.7 million for the Series B round, per SEC filings.
  • Alex Taussig, who reps Lightspeed on the Vector board, declined comment.
  • Axios space reporter Miriam Kramer notes that the small launch industry is saturated, pointing to this article Axios published around the same time as Vector announced its funding.
Source: Giphy

Saudi Aramco announced an agreement in principle to buy a 20% stake in the oil-to-chemicals business of India’s Reliance Industries. The deal values the unit at $75 billion, including debt.

  • Why it's the BFD: It's one of the largest-ever foreign investments in India, per a Reliance statement, and comes on the same day that Saudi Aramco held its first-ever earnings call.
  • Caveat: During that earnings call, an Aramco finance executive called it a preliminary agreement that's in the "very, very early stages."
  • Bottom line: "Aramco has signaled it is trying to become more like Exxon Mobil or Chevron, which refine as much oil as they produce. This would help the company secure more buyers for what it produces, help cushion against low oil prices and provide the potential to make more profit on refined products such as gasoline and petroleum-based chemicals." ⁠— Sarah McFarlane & Corinne Abrams, WSJ
Venture Capital Deals

Wheels Up, a subscription-based private aviation company, raised $128 million in Series D funding at a post-money valuation north of $1.1 billion. Backers include Franklin Templeton, Fidelity, and T. Rowe Price.

Meesho, a Bangalore-based social commerce company, raised $125 million in Series D funding. Naspers led, and was joined by Facebook and return backers SAIF, Sequoia Capital, Shunwei Capital, RPS, and Venture Highway.

Lendingkart, an Indian provider of working capital to SMEs, raised $30 million in Series D funding from insiders Fullerton Financial Holdings, Bertelsmann India Investments, and India Quotient.

Herbivore, a Seattle-based skincare brand, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Silas Capital led, and was joined by S1 Fund.

Hazel Technologies, a Chicago-based startup aimed at slowing food decay, raised $13 million in Series B funding. Pangaea Ventures led, and was joined by S2G Ventures, The Grantham Foundation, Asahi Kasei Ventures, Rhapsody Venture Partners, Serra Ventures, Valley Oak Investments, Climate Impact Capital, and ImpactAssets.

Cambridge Crops, a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup aimed at slowing food decay (no, I didn't mess up the copy/paste... this is a different one), raised $4 million in seed funding led by The Engine.

Proterra, a Greenville, S.C.-based maker of all-electric buses, authorized a seventh-round share sale of up to $75 million at a post-money valuation north of $1 billion, per a Delaware filing.

Private Equity Deals

BlackRock invested $875 million to become the largest outside shareholder in Authentic Brands at a valuation of $4 billion (including debt). Authentic is a brand development company backed by General Atlantic, Leonard Green & Partners and Lion Capital. Earlier this year it bought Sports Illustrated.

Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s state-owned railroad operator, received multiple takeover bids for all or part of its European transportation unit (Arriva), per Bloomberg. Suitors reportedly include Apollo Global Management, The Carlyle Group, Lone Star Funds, Go-Ahead Group, Stagecoach
Group, and Transdev Group.

Harbor Beach Capital invested in Atlantic Southern Paving, a provider of pavement maintenance and construction services in Florida.

KKR agreed to acquire a majority stake in China’s NVC Lighting at an enterprise value of $794 million.

Public Offerings

Five companies plan to price IPOs on U.S. exchanges this week: 9F, BioVie, CrossFirst Bankshares, Flux Power, and WiMi Hologram.

PT Softex Indonesia, a female sanitary products maker owned by CVC Capital Partners, picked bankers for an IPO that could seek to raise upwards of $500 million, per Bloomberg.

Liquidity Events

ARX Equity Partners sold its majority stake in ANWIS, a Polish maker of sun shading systems, to a unit of Warema Renkhoff.

Eurazeo sold five assets via a strip-sale to a secondaries consortium of Lexington Partners, Adams Street, and StepStone, per PE International. Proceeds were used to help seed Eurazeo’s €700 million fourth flagship buyout fund.

More M&A

Air Canada (TSX: AC) upped its takeover offer for Montreal-based travel tour operator Transat (TSX: TRZ) from C$13 per share to C$18 per share, or C$720 million.

Extreme Networks (Nasdaq: EXTR) completed its $210 million acquisition of cloud management and edge networking company Aerohive.

Great Pacific Capital offered to buy the 49% stake it doesn’t already own in Canadian forest products company Canfor (TSX: CFP) at an enterprise value of around C$2 billion.

Green Investment Group, part of Australia’s Macquarie Group, agreed to acquire a 40% stake in East Anglia One, a British offshore wind farm, from Spain’s Iberdrola for around $2 billion.

Inter Pipeline (TSX: IPL), a Canadian oil pipeline and storage company with a market cap north of C$10 billion, said it received an unsolicited takeover offer, but that it is not in talks to sell.

Nine Entertainment (ASX: NEC) offered to buy Australian radio broadcaster Macquarie Media (ASX: MRN) for A$275 million in cash.

S4 Capital (LSE: SFOR), an advertising platform led by former WPP boss Martin Sorrell, acquired influencer marketing company IMA for €10 million.

SSE (LSE: SSE) said it’s in talks to sell its energy retail unit to British energy supplier OVO Group.


Peak Ventures of Utah raised $75 million for its third fund, per an SEC filing.

It's Personnel

Steven Barg is stepping down as Goldman Sachs’ top activism banker, in order to join Elliott Management, per Bloomberg.

🚑 Ian Chiang joined Flare Capital Partners as a principal. He previously was SVP of CareAllies.

Final Numbers: M&A year-to-date
Source: Refinitiv Deals Intelligence. Data through August 8, 2019.
Dan Primack

🙏Thanks for reading Axios Pro Rata! Please ask you family, colleagues, and favorite CBS stars to sign up here.