Axios Pro Rata

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January 03, 2018

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Top of the Morning

Music streaming giant Spotify confidentially filed IPO documents with the SEC at the end of December, according to multiple sources.

  • Why it matters: Both Silicon Valley and Wall Street are paying close attention to this one, given that Spotify is pursuing a direct listing instead of a traditional float. That means no road show or other typical IPO accoutrements (including some of the Wall Street fees, although several investments banks are involved). The quiet period does seem intact, however, as a Spotify spox declined comment.
  • Timing: All indications are that Spotify wants to list in Q1, and timing of the confidential F-1 filing would support such a calendar. But yesterday came news that the company has been sued for $1.6 billion for copyright infringement. It's unclear how the suit will affect Spotify's direct listing plans, outside of needing to add a new risk factor to the confidential docs.

• Secondary success: Coller Capital appears to have won the auction to restructure Nordic Capital's seventh buyout fund, per multiple sources. No final deal has been signed yet, but word is that Coller has offered a premium just north of 10% to NAV, which was previously reported to be around €2 billion (for 10 remaining assets from 2008-vintage fund).

  • There does not seem to be a stapled commitment from Coller for Nordic's ninth fund, which is in market with a €3.5 billion target.

• GIFantastic: Kia just posted a deep-dive into Tenor, a four-year-old GIF purveyor that now claims 300 million users who perform 10 billion monthly searches. She also learned that the startup recently began letting media companies sell GIF sponsorships to their own advertisers, in exchange for a revenue share.

  • Rival Giphy, which should be well-known to Pro Rata readers, is raising another $75 million in VC funding at a near-unicorn valuation (per WSJ). That's on top of the $150 million it has already raised. For contrast, Tenor has only raised around $14 million, from firms like Menlo Ventures.

• Deal scoop: Flower delivery giant FTD has quietly acquired BloomThat, according to multiple sources. Apparently a small, all-cash deal. San Francisco-based BloomThat is often described as "Uber for flowers," and had raised $7.5 million in VC funding from firms like Forerunner Ventures, First Round Capital, Initialized Capital, Rothenberg Ventures and Sherpa Capital. Neither FTD nor BloomThat returned requests for comment.

• Trumpland: Ant Financial, the finance affiliate of China's Alibaba Group, has abandoned its $1.2 billion takeover attempt for Dallas-based money transfer company MoneyGram International, after failing to obtain CFIUS approval. There may be no bigger M&A story for 2018 than how the Trump Administration is changing the regulatory playbook — both for domestic and foreign acquisitions — and if the new normal will be understandable guidelines or outright confusion.

• Tax talk: Former U.S. Treasury Sec. Jack Lew, now a partner with buyout firm Lindsey Goldberg, is no fan of the new tax plan. Per an interview with Bloomberg Radio:

"It's a ticking time bomb in terms of the debt... What we've seen is a tax cut that spends money we don't have to have very concentrated benefits for global corporations and the top 1%, and it's leaving us broke."


Dominion Energy (NYSE: D) has agreed to acquire troubled electricity generation company SCANA (NYSE: SCG), in an all-stock deal valued at around $14.6 billion (including debt).

  • Why it's the BFD: Because it will provide partial rebates to South Carolina utility customers who have been forced to subsidize costs related to a pair of abandoned nuclear power plant projects in which Scana held a majority stake (its joint venture partner was Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse, which went bankrupt last year).
  • Bottom line: "Scana was financially and politically hobbled by the failed attempt to build the nuclear power plant. Facing investigations and legislative hearings, Scana's chairman and chief executive said last year that he would step down. The loss of political support for the company, which has roots going back 160 years in the region, damaged it and laid the groundwork for the sale." – Imani Moise, WSJ

Venture Capital Deals

🚑 DNAnexus, a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of biomedical informatics and data management, has raised $58 million in new VC funding. Foresite Capital led, and was joined by Microsoft and return backers GV, TPG Biotech, WuXi NextCode, Claremont Creek Ventures and MidCap Financial.

🚑 Elstar Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of cancer immunotherapies, has raised $39 million in Series A funding from Apple Tree Partners.

• Lovepop, a Boston-based greeting cards startup, has raised $12.5 million in VC funding led by Highland Capital Partners.

Private Equity Deals

• Armour, a Bermuda-based personal and casualty run-off insurance business, has secured up to $500 million in equity commitments led by Aquiline Capital Partners.

• Ascensus, a Dresher, Penn.-based retirement planning services provider backed by Genstar Capital and Aquiline Capital Partners, has acquired Dedicated Defined Benefit Services, a Glendale, Ariz.-based provider of defined benefit plans to individuals and small businesses.

• Battery Ventures has acquired an undisclosed stake in PageUp, an Australian maker of enterprise talent management software.

• CI Capital Partners has acquired a majority stake in Chicago-based freight management company Redwood Logistics, and merged it with existing portfolio company Simplified Logistics.

• ClearLight Partners has acquired a majority stake in Paul Fredrick, a Fleetwood, Penn.-based designer and direct-to-consumer retailer of men's apparel.

⛽ Gryphon Oilfield Solutions, a Houston-based provider of down-hole tools for the oilfield sector, has raised an undisclosed amount of private equity funding from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and CSL Capital Management.

• Solace Capital Partners has acquired CST Industries, a Kansas City-based manufacturer of metal tanks and domes. Sellers include TGP Investments.

• Thoma Bravo has completed its previously-announced purchase of ABC Financial Services, a Little Rock, Ark.-based provider of payment processing software for health clubs.

• Thompson Street Capital Partners has acquired Gurobi Optimization, a Houston-based provider of software optimization solutions.

Public Offerings

🚑 Cue Biopharma, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of T-cell immunotherapies, raised $66 million in a "best efforts" IPO. It priced 8.8 million shares at $7.50 per share, and began trading on the Nasdaq under ticker CUE. The company had raised around $26 million in VC funding from firms like MDB Capital Group.

⛽ Liberty Oilfield Services, a Denver-based hydraulic fracturing services provider backed by Riverstone Holdings, set is IPO terms to 10.7 million shares being offered at between $14 and $16. It would have a fully-diluted initial market value of around $1.7 billion, were it to price in the middle. Liberty had originally planned to go public early last year, but postponed the offering in May.

Liquidity Events

• Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has acquired Buddybuild, a Vancouver-based provider of app development tools that had raised over $7.5 million in VC funding from backers like Kleiner Perkins, First Round Capital, Amplify Partners and Bloomberg Beta.

More M&A

Dominion Energy (NYSE: D) has agreed to an all-stock merger with SCANA (NYSE: SCG), in a deal valued at around $14.6 billion.

DuluxGroup (ASX: DLX) has agreed to sell its Hong Kong and Chinese coatings business to Yip's Chemical Holdings (HK: 0408) for around $15 million.


• Converge, a Boston-based venture firm focused on B2B startups, is raising up to $100 million for its debut fund, per an SEC filing.

• Transom Capital, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm focused on the lower middle-markets, raised $300 million for its third fund, per an SEC filing.

It's Personnel

• Dan Hoffer (ex-Tandem Capital) and Lev Mass (ex-XSeed Capital) have launched Crux Capital, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based early-stage venture firm.

• Michael Marziani has joined MidCap Financial as a managing director and team lead for tech lending, per his LinkedIn profile. He previously was a managing director and co-head of venture finance with Ares Management.

• Bethany Mayer has joined Siris Capital Group as an executive partner. She previously was an SVP of Keysight Technologies (NYSE: KEYS).

Final Numbers