Jul 10, 2017

Axios Pro Rata

Greetings from the home office, where it's good to be shaking off the Pro Rata cobwebs. Please remember that you can send me scoop or feedback via email (just hit reply), anonymous tip (http://axios.com/tips) or confidential apps like Signal, Telegram and Confide (Dan Primack / 857-472-3072). Here we go...

Top of the Morning

Fake news: Binary Capital co-founder Jonathan Teo opted for a "burn the house down" strategy over the weekend, sending a letter to portfolio company CEOs that referred to some of them as "whiners," slammed the media as "corrupted" and took shots at LP leaks. Teo also noted that LPs have not yet accepted his offer to resign as Binary's remaining partner, but also suggests it's more a matter of when than if.

• Private-to-private: The Blackstone Group last week jumped into the deepening pool of private equity firms that are buying passive stakes in the management companies of other private equity firms, by acquiring a position in Leonard Green & Partners. No specifics were disclosed for the deal, except that Blackstone did it via a fund that previously had only bought into hedge fund management companies.

  • My gut reaction: One of these relationships will eventually lead to accusations of anti-competitive activity – a new spin on the Dahl case – although it's not really too different from longstanding practices of PE firms raising funds-of-funds or of PE execs taking LP stakes in rival funds.

• Counterproductive: Kim Hart reports that the White House will take steps to delay and then ultimately rescind the International Entrepreneur Rule, before it is scheduled to go into effect on July 17. We've been expecting this for a while, but that still doesn't make easier to fathom outside of reflexive anti-immigrant sentiment.

IER would only apply to foreign nationals who had raised at least $250,000 in venture capital from U.S. investors for new, U.S.-based businesses. In other words, job creators. Moreover, the "visas" were only temporary, with extensions dependent on the company demonstrating business growth via metrics like new hiring, revenue growth and additional investment.

• Number watch: Private equity trade group The American Investment Council (yes, the sponsor of this week's issues of Pro Rata) released a report arguing that private equity returns (net of fees) through the end of 2016 outpaced the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 for 1-year, 3-year and 10-year returns. It also claims to have beaten the S&P 500 for 5-year if you exclude dividends (which you shouldn't do).

  • Why it matters: There is a lot of pressure on public pensions to reduce allocations to alternative investments in favor of passive index funds, and numbers like these could help stem that tide a bit.
  • Caveat: AIC uses Bison and Cambridge Associates benchmarks to make its case in flat figures, but its charts do not explicitly take illiquidity premiums into account.

• Prime proxy: Whole Foods on Friday filed a proxy statement related to its pending takeover by Amazon, and included some interesting backstory on the transaction. CNBC has a recap, which includes rival private equity offers and how Whole Foods pushed up Amazon's original $41 per share offer.

  • Not included in the CNBC piece, but notable: Bloomberg's April 11 story suggesting Amazon's interest in Whole Foods is what really kicked off the deal, causing Whole Foods CEO John Mackey to have an outside consultant reach out to Amazon via the e-commerce giant's PR chief Jay Carney.

Dalian Wanda Group has agreed to sell 76 hotels and stakes in 13 tourism projects to Chinese property developer Sunac (HK: 1918) for approximately $9.3 billion.

  • Why it's the BFD: Wanda has openly said that it wants to crush Disney's theme park business in China, but today's deal means that it's given up that fight. Here was Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin after the early 2016 opening of Disneyland Shanghai: "The frenzy of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and the era of blindly following them has passed... At Wanda I always say we want to ensure Disney is not profitable for 10 to 20 years in this business segment in China."
  • Bottom line: This is mostly about Wanda needing cash to repay debt, both because it wants to relist its main property unit and because China's banking regulator last month asked lenders to review the risk profile of loans made to big acquirers like Wanda.
Venture Capital Deals

• Chengjia Apartment, a Chinese apartment rental platform, has raised $50 million in VC funding from IDG Capital and Huazhu Hotels Group. http://bit.ly/2tFI16C

• NewLeaf Symbiotics, a St. Louis-based agricultural biologicals startup, has raised $24 million in Series C funding. Monsanto Growth Ventures and Otter Capital co-led the round, and were joined by Lewis & Clark Ventures, Rockport Capital, Pangaea Ventures and Open Prairie Ventures. www.newleafsym.com

🚑 CellTrak Technologies, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based provider of care delivery management solutions for home and community-based health organizations, has raised over $11 million in new funding from Boathouse Capital and return backer MK Capital. www.celltrak.com

• Squirro, a Zurich-based provider of business data analytics and insights, has raised $10 million in Series B funding. Osage Growth Capital led the round, and was joined by Salesforce Ventures. www.squirro.com

• Yamibuy, an ecommerce site for Americans to buy Asian snacks, beauty products, health supplements and home appliances, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. GGV Capital led the round, and was joined by New Oriental Education & Technology Group (NYSE: EDU) and K2VC. www.yamibuy.com

• CerebrEX, a Japanese maker of IP blocks and display controllers for flat panel displays, has raised ¥800 million (US$7m) in equity funding from Innovation Network Corp of Japan and Fortune Venture Capital. www.cerebrexinc.com

• Sunrate, a Chinese provider of cross-border payment and exchange-rate risk management solutions, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by China Growth Capital. http://bit.ly/2tZrM70

Private Equity Deals

• Apollo Global Management has agreed to acquire ClubCorp (NYSE: MYCC), a Dallas-based private golf club and country club operator, for $1.1 billion (not including assumed debt). The $17.12 per share cash offer represents nearly a 31% premium over Friday's closing price. https://bloom.bg/2t4Ksxx

• BC Partners has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Pronovias, a Spain-based bridal wear company, from founder Alberto Palatchi (who will retain a minority stake). No financial terms were disclosed. http://bit.ly/2v2oNYe

• H.I.G. Capital has acquired BIC Graphic, a Clearwater, Fla.-based promotional products company, from Société BIC (Paris: BB) for a reported $80 million. http://bit.ly/2u3ZRT0

• Hydrofarm, a Petaluma, Calif.-based wholesaler and manufacturer of hydroponics equipment and horticultural products, has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Serruya Private Equity Partners, Hawthorn Equity Partners and Broadband Capital Investments. www.hydrofarm.com

• J&F Investimentos has ended talks to sell Brazilian flip-flop maker Alpargatas to Cambuhy Investimentos and Itaúsa Investimentos over pricing disagreements, according to Reuters. The original offer would have valued Alpargatas at between $1 billion and $1.1 billion. http://reut.rs/2sWg2T2

• Process Sending Technologies, a UK-based portfolio company of Battery Ventures, has agreed to acquire Rotronic, a Swiss maker of humidity and temperature measurement solutions. No financial terms were disclosed. www.processsensing.com

• Thoma Bravo has completed its previously-announced acquisition of Lexmark's enterprise software business for an undisclosed amount. Lexmark is owned by Apex Technology Co., PAG Asia Capital and Legend Capital Management. www.lexmark.com

• United Group, a Southeast Europe-focused pay TV and broadband operator backed by KKR and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has agreed to acquire the Croatian and Slovenian media portfolio owned by CME (Nasdaq: CETV). No financial terms were disclosed. http://reut.rs/2u4gyNV

🚑 Waud Capital Partners has invested in ChiroTouch, a San Diego-based provider of electronic health records and practice management software for the chiropractic and other therapy markets. No financial terms were disclosed. www.chirotouch.com

Public Offerings

🚑 Akcea Therapeutics and Co-Diagnostics are the only two issuers on the U.S. IPO calendar this week, although both originally had planned to price at the end of June. http://bit.ly/2u4psLq

🚑 Calyxt, a New Brighton, Minn.-based Cellectis (Paris: ALCLS) spinout focused on developing gene-edited crop traits, has set its IPO terms to 6.06 million shares being offered at between $15 and $18 per share. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol CLXT, with Credit Suisse and Jefferies serving as co-lead underwriters. The company reports a $12 million net loss on less than $1 million in revenue for 2016.

🚑 Kala Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based developer of ophthalmic products based on muscle-penetrating particle technology, has set its IPO terms to 6 million shares being offered at between $14 and $16 per share. It would have an initial market cap of around $349 million, were it to price in the middle of its range. The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol KALA, with J.P. Morgan and BofA Merrill Lynch serving as lead underwriters. Shareholders include Longitude Capital (11.9% pre-IPO stake), OrbiMed (11.9%), Wellington Management (10.92%), Third Rock Ventures (10.04%), RA Capital (9.55%), Lux Capital (9.14%), Vivo Capital (6.65%) and CVF LLC (6.07%). www.kalarx.com

• YogaWorks, a Culver City, Calif.-based yoga studio operator owned by Great Hill Partners, has set its IPO terms to 5 million shares being offered at between $12 and $14 per share. It would have an initial market cap of around $181 million, were it to price in the middle of its range. The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol YOGA, with Cowen listed as left lead underwriter. YogaWorks reports a $9.5 million net loss on around $55 million in revenue for 2016. www.yogaworks.com

Liquidity Events

• CPA Global has acquired Markpro, a Korean provider of IP services, from Korean private equity firm UTC for an undisclosed amount. www.cpaglobal.com

• Vela Trading Technologies has acquired OptionsCity Software, a Chicago-based provider of electronic trading software, from groups like Edison Partners. No financial terms were disclosed. www.optionscity.com

More M&A

• Euronext (Paris:ENX) has acquired a 60% stake in iBabs, a Dutch provider of an online portal for corporate and public organization boards, for €30.1 million. http://on.ft.com/2t4m2UI

• Cosco Group, a Chinese state-owned shipping container operator, has offered $6.3 billion to acquire smaller rival Orient Overseas Container Line. If accepted, the merger would create the world's third-largest container shipper. http://reut.rs/2tZjf3K

• MetLife (NYSE: MET) has agreed to acquire Logan Circle Partners, the fixed income asset management business of Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG), for approximately $250 million in cash. http://reut.rs/2uUuyqU

• Norsk Hydro (Oslo: NHY), a Norwegian metals company, has agreed to acquire the 50% stake it doesn't already own in -based aluminum products maker Sapa, at an enterprise value of around $3.24 billion. The seller is Norwegian conglomerate Orkla (Oslo: ORK). http://reut.rs/2u9hp0O


• CRV is targeting $450 million for its seventeenth flagship VC fund and $400 million for its first-ever growth equity fund (which Axios scooped in May), according to regulatory filings. Missing from the filings is former general partner Annie Kadavy, who quietly left the firm to join UberFreight as head of strategic operations (per her LinkedIn account). www.crv.com

• Hillhouse Capital Group is planning to raise around $1.2 billion for its next fund, which will be yuan-denominated, according to Reuters. http://reut.rs/2u4jJp1

• Partech Ventures, a Paris-based VC firm, has raised $450 million for its seventh fund. http://tcrn.ch/2tFqTO3

It's Personnel

• KKR has named Paul Horwood as its new CFO for European operations, according to Private Equity News. He will replace Peter Liu, who will move to Hong Kong to become CFO for KKR Asia. http://bit.ly/2uHWVcA

• Brian Pham has stepped down as a principal with Sherpa Capital, which he had joined just after the VC firm's 2013 founding. No word yet on his future plans.