APPLE’S AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE AMBITIONS
Hello Term Sheet readers. Lucinda here again until Polina’s return following the July 4 holidays. In the meantime, please send deals to email@example.com.
Apple acquired ailing autonomous vehicle startup Drive.ai earlier this week for what was reportedly a discount to its $200 million peak valuation, and less than what the company had raised in its lifetime: $77 million.
Still, the acquisition was portrayed as rekindling of sorts for the tech giant’s autonomous vehicle ambitions, as Apple had laid of 190 staffers focused on self-driving earlier this year. But Fortune’s David Z. Morris takes a more nuanced look at the deal, and why the combination at its heart is about pared down expectations.
Noting that Drive.ai’s most significant innovations recently have focused around controlled automated mass transit, Morris writes:
“It seems increasingly clear that such limited routes, rather than freewheeling cross-country robo-journeys, epitomize the real, unsexy near-term potential for driverless vehicles. Other startups like Optimus Ride and Voyage have operated services either on fixed routes, or in sedate and predictable settings like retirement communities. Even Alphabet spinoff Waymo limited the ‘launch’ of its commercial robotaxi service to a few handpicked customers on the tidy suburban streets of Chandler, Az.….
The Drive.ai acquisition, then, is hardly a rekindling of Apple’s autonomous ambitions. From its reported discount price tag to the glorified shuttle buses at its heart, the deal instead points to dashed hopes, hedged bets, and the continued shrinking scope of the erstwhile Project Titan. Apple may have added Drive.ai’s engineers to its roster primarily to get their specific experience with automated, fixed-route transit.
Apple, then, may no longer be trying to build the iPhone of cars. That would be a disappointment for investors because selling private cars to households has much more potential upside than selling vans to cities and retirement communities. But for society as a whole, low-speed, low-risk autonomous mass transit may in fact be a rosier mid-term scenario.”
Read the full story here.
I had the chance to sit down with RBC’s Deputy Chairman of Global Investment Banking Larry Grafstein recently at the UJA Federation of New York’s Banking & Finance event, to chat about the M&A environment ahead of Thursday’s Democratic debate.
Global M&A volume fell 27% year-over-year in the second quarter of the year, to $842 billion in part due to continued trade war tensions between the U.S. and China, per Refinitiv. But there was a strange bright spot: mega deals stemming from the U.S. helped prop up the figure however, with the $121 billion merger between Raytheon and United Technologies’ airspace division and another $63 billion deal between AbbVie and Allergan.
“With low interest rates, it continues to be a robust environment,” Grafstein said. “As we get toward the election next year, it could change people’s calculations because it takes a while for deals to get approved from an antitrust perspective. So maybe there are some people that are thinking that if the Democrats win, antitrust enforcement might be tougher.”
So companies hoping to close a deal before the 2020 elections will likely start having those conversations now—which could lead to an acceleration in dealmaking, he said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) dominated news coverage following Thursday’s presidential debate after pressing former vice president Joe Biden hard on racial issues. Though not nearly as vocal or aggressive as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) on breaking up big tech companies and are considered softer on antitrust regulations, both Biden and Harris have opined that the issue warrants serious consideration.
– Fungible, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of data-centric computing, raised $200 million in Series C funding. SoftBank Vision Fund led the round and was joined by investors including Norwest Venture Partners.
– Restaurant365, an Austin and Irvine, Calif.-based provider of cloud-based restaurant accounting software, raised $88 million in funding. ICONIQ Capital led the round.
– Aera Technology, a Mountain View, Calif.-based firm focused on self-driving execution, raised $80 million in Series C funding. DFJ Growth led the round, and was joined by investors including NewView Capital and Georgian Partners.
– Sanifit, a Spain and San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company focused on treating progressive vascular calcification disorders, raised $80.9 million in funding. Caixa Capital Risc led the round.
– Laiye, a Beijing-based AI concierge service, raised $35 million in Series B funding led by Cathay Innovation, and was joined by investors including Wu Capital and Lightspeed China Partners.
– Calysta, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm focused on protein animal feed, raised $30 million in funding. BP Ventures was the investor.
– Ultivue, a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of tissue biomarker identification, raised $22 million in Series C funding. Northpond Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including ARCH Venture Partners, 6 Dimensions Capital, Yonghua Capital, and Applied Ventures.d
– Vaxess Technologies, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company focused on silk-powered MIMIX smart release patch, closed its $8.2 million Series A round. The Engine led the round.
– ConnexPay, a Minneapolis travel industry payments provider, raised $7 million in Series A funding. BIP Capital led the round.
– VIA, Somerville, Va.-based artificial intelligence and blockchain provider focused on the energy and utility industry, raised $7 million in seed funding from Westly Group.
– WeGift, a London-based firm for digital rewards and automated gift card transactions, raised 4 million pounds ($5.1 million) in Series A funding. Stride.vc and was joined by investors including SAP.iO Fund and Unilever Ventures.
– Homeroom, a San Francisco-based platform for after-school tutoring sessions, raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Forerunner Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Felicis Ventures, Precursor Ventures and Kapor Capital.
– Opendorse, a Lincoln, Neb.-based athlete marketing platform, raised $3.1 million in funding. Serra Ventures and Flyover Capital led the round.
– 3Box, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based enterprise platform developer focused on cloud storage, raised $2.5m in a seed round led by Placeholder Ventures, where he is a venture partner.
–C2RO, a Montreal-based robotics SaaS platform, raised C$2.25 million ($1.7 million) in funding. Fonds Innovexport led the round and was joined by investors including GCI Capital Inc, Harbor Street Ventures, Tandemlaunch, and Ministere de Economie et L’Innovation.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
– Lego’s founding family and Blackstone Group agreed to acquire Merlin, the owner of Madame Tussauds, for $7.5 billion deal, per Reuters.
– Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan invested in SpaceX, the maker and operator of rockets and spacecraft. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Chico’s FAS Inc rejected the most recent buyout offer from Sycamore Partners. Sycamore planned to offer $3 a share cash or $350 million. Read more.
–Temasek Holdings agreed to acquire 21.7% of Li & Fung Ltd’s subsidiary LF Logistics Holdings for $300 million, per Reuters.
– KKR and Blackrock closed a deal to acquire 40% of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company‘s pipelines for $4 billion, per Reuters.
– Incline Equity Partners acquired Brown & Joseph, an Itasca, Ill.-based debt collection agency. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– MPE Partners invested in Garmat USA, an Englewood, Colo.-based provider of products for automotive collision repair. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Illuminate Education, a portfolio company of Insight Partners, acquired FastBridge Learning, a Minneapolis-based assessment platform that helps teachers monitor student progress. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Advent International agreed to acquire a majority stake in Transaction Services Group, a provider of business management software and payments solutions. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Arlington Capital Partners made a majority investment in Riverpoint Medical, a Portland, Ore.-based maker of medical devices. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Persistence Capital Partners invested in Anova Fertility & Reproductive Health, a Toronto-based provider of fertility and reproductive care. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Bracco Imaging S.p.A agreed to acquire Blue Earth Diagnostics, an Oxford, U.K.-based molecular imaging company, for $450 million.
– Quanterix agreed to acquire UmanDiagnostics, an Umeå, Sweden-based supplier of neurofilament light antibodies and ELISA kits focused on neurodegenerative conditions. Quanterix agreed to pay $16 million in cash and $6.5 million in Quanterix stock.
– Mood Media acquired all the assets of South Central AV, a Nashville-based affiliate of mood focused on audiovisual systems.
– Belle International filed plans to spin off its sportswear business through an $1 billion Hong Kong IPO, Reuters reports citing sources.
– Change Healthcare, a healthcare tech firm, raised $557 million in an offering of 42.9 million shares priced at $13, below its $16 to $19 range. The firm posted revenue of $3.3 billion and income of $176.7 million in the year ending March 2019. McKesson, Blackstone, and Hellman & Friedman back the firm. Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan are underwriters. Read more.
– BridgeBio Pharma, a Palo Alto, CA-based Phase 3 biotech for genetic diseases, raised $349 million in an offering of 20.5 million shares priced at $17, above its $14 to $16 range. It has yet to post a revenue and posted losses of $144 million in 2018. KKR and Viking back the firm. J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies, SVB Leerink, KKR, Piper Jaffray, Mizuho Securities, BMO Capital Markets, and Raymond James are underwriters.It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “BBIO.” Read more.
– Adaptive Biotechnologies, a Seattle-based maker of an immunosequencing platform for diagnosing diseases, now plans to raise $300 million in an IPO of 15 million shares priced between $18 to $19. It posted revenue of $55.7 million and loss of $46.4 million in 2018. Viking Global (36% pre-offering) and Matrix Capital (16.4%) back the firm. Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Cowen, Guggenheim Securities, William Blair, and BTIG are underwriters. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “ADPT.” Read more.
– Health Catalyst, a Salt Lake City-based provider of a data analytics platform and services to healthcare organizations, filed for a $100 million IPO. The firm posted revenue of $112.6 million in 2018 and losses of $62 million. Sequoia (21.9% pre-offering), Norwest (21%), and UPMC (6.3%) back the firm. Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and William Blair are underwriters. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “HCAT.” Read more.
– Howard Midstream Partners LP, a San Antonio, Texas-based operator of midstream energy assets in Texas and Pennsylvania, withdrew plans for a $200 million IPO. Read more.
– Morphic Holding, Waltham, Mass-based maker of oral small-molecule integrin therapeutics for various chronic diseases, raised $90 million in an IPO of 5 million shares priced at $15, the midpoint of its range It posted revenue of $3.4 million in 2018 and loss of $23.8 million. GlaxoSmithKline (9.8% pre-offering) and Pfizer (9.3%) back the firm. Jefferies, Cowen, BMO Capital Markets, and Wells Fargo Securities are underwriters. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “MORF.” Read more.
– Karuna Therapeutics, a Boston-based Phase 2 biotech developing therapies for schizophrenia and other CNS disorders, raised $89 million in an offering of 5.6 million shares priced at $16, at the midpoint of its $15 to $17 range. It has yet to post a revenue, and posted losses of $17.5 million in 2018. PureTech Health, ARCH Ventures, and The Wellcome Trust back the firm. Goldman Sachs, Citi and Wells Fargo Securities plans to list on the Nasdaq as “KRTX.” Read more.
–WiMi Hologram Cloud, a Beijing-based holographic augmented reality application platform, filed for a $50 million in an initial public offering. The firm posted revenue of $32.8 million in 2018 and income of $13.3 million. The Benchmark Company, Maxim Group LLC, China Merchants Securities, AMTD Global Markets, BOCI Asia, China Everbright, GF Securities, and Axiom Capital Management are underwriters. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “WIMI.” Read more.
– Centerbridge Partners L.P. agreed to acquire Solidus Solutions, a European producer of sustainable-fibre based packaging solutions, for an enterprise value of €330 million ($375.5 million), from Aurelius Equity Opportunities.
– Equistone Partners Europe is in exclusive negotiations to acquire Sateco, a French firm focused on manufacturing and distribution of metal formwork equipment for construction sites, from Naxicap Partners. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
– Court Square Capital Partners agreed to acquire Offen Petroleum, a Commerce City, Colo.-based provider of petroleum logistics services, from Lariat Partners. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
–Lightyear Capital and Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan agreed to acquire Lendmark Financial Services, a Lawrenceville, Ga.-based consumer finance platform. from Blackstone. No financial terms were disclosed.
FIRMS + FUNDS
– Deerfield Management plans to raise $1 billion for Deerfield Healthcare Innovations Fund II, per an SEC filing.
– Top Tier Capital Partners plans to raise $350 million for Top Tier Venture Capital IX, per an SEC filing.
–Bookend Capital Partners plans to raise $300 million for its debut fund, per an SEC filing.
– Manhattan Venture Partners appointed Andrea Lamari Walne as partner.