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Amazon draws the battle lines at home and abroad

October 26, 2020, 2:54 PM UTC

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Amazon is facing a battle for its current business as U.S. regulators seek to curb the tech giants and accuse them of monopolistic practices stateside. But in India, Amazon is fighting for its future—quite literally.

Over the weekend, Amazon won an emergency order to temporarily halt a deal that could give Mukesh Ambani—India’s richest man—an enormous leg up in the battle for e-commerce market share in India, a market that Amazon has sunk billions into already and expects to be among the largest in the world. 

On Sunday, Singapore arbitration court placed a temporary hold on Ambani’s Reliance Industries’ planned $3.4 billion deal for rival Future Group, a rival retailer. That comes after Amazon fought hard against the deal, accusing Future Group, in which it has a stake, of breaching its contract. According to Bloomberg, Amazon has the right to acquire shares in Future’s flagship, Future Retail, in coming years.

Reliance has well-known ambitions to dominate India’s e-commerce marketplace, and as India’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, it has solid footing. Adding Future Group’s retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing units would more than cement that position.

Still, Amazon and even Walmart (which owns a majority stake in Flipkart) faces a larger uphill battle than just Reliance: India has grown increasingly wary of the influence foreign e-commerce players and their potentially monopolistic practices. Among other restrictions, in 2016, the government said such companies could still operate as marketplaces helping match buyers with sellers, but it could not sell their own products directly. And while Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos visited India in 2014 posing in an ornately painted delivery truck while wearing a white Indian wedding suit, his most recent visit in mid-January was met with massive opposition in the form of protests from local retailers.

Complicating all of this back-and-forth between Amazon and Reliance Retail: The Indian retail company’s parent, Reliance Industries, reportedly offered to sell as much as 40% of the unit to the Bezos shop back in September. 

But as my colleague Vivienne Walt put in in 2015, just two years after Amazon made its first steps into India, the battle for e-commerce market share in the country “is a fight that Amazon is far from certain of winning, yet one it cannot afford to sit out.”

A SHIFT AT UPFRONT VENTURES: Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures promoted Kara Nortman into the role of co-managing partner, putting her in the top leadership role alongside managing partner Mark Suster. That comes as the firm, whose investments include Ring and thredUP, is in the process of raising some $280 million for its seventh flagship fund. Nortman, who joined Upfront as a partner in 2014, has helmed investments in the realm of cybersecurity and e-commerce (Fleetsmith, Parachute Homes) and prior to that, was at Battery Ventures. Nortman credits Suster with mentoring her up through the ranks—a “coach” role she has also enjoyed taking on as a founding member at All Raise— though she clarifies “Mark is not going anywhere, he’s still pretty young,” she says.

Upfront Ventures is also a very locally focused shop: Some 45% of investments go to L.A.-based companies. When asked if she believed that percentage would change as the coronavirus pushes some out of large cities, Nortman says no—because the culture does shift with geography.

“Geography still matters—you need to have a shared culture and shared understanding and need to have shared hard conversations,” she says. “I still have a strong desire to invest in the L.A. community.”

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda
Email: lucinda.shen@fortune.com

VENTURE DEALS

- Scorpion Therapeutics, a Boston-based precision oncology company, raised $108 million in Series A funding. Atlas Venture, Omega Funds, and Vida Ventures led the round and were joined by Abingworth and Partners HealthCare Innovation. 

- PrimaryBid, a U.K.-based fintech platform that connects retail investors with public companies raising capital, raised $50 million in Series B funding. Investors include London Stock Exchange Group, Draper Esprit, OMERS Ventures, Fidelity International Strategic Ventures and ABN AMRO Ventures.

- TechSee, an Israel-based maker of a visual-based customer service platform, raised $30 million in Series C funding. Investors included OurCrowd, Salesforce Ventures, TELUS Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, and Planven Entrepreneur Ventures.

- Nava, a New York-based employee benefits brokerage, raised $20 million in financing. Thrive Capital was the investor.

- EdgePresence, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based operator of data centers, raised $30 million in funding from DataBank.

- KETOS, a San Francisco-based water intelligence and analytics provider, raised $15 million in funding. Motley Fool Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Citi and Illuminated Funds Group.

- StreetShares, a Reston, Va.-based business lending fintech, raised $10 million in funding. Investors included Motley Fool Ventures and Ally Ventures.

- Shouqi Yueche, a Chinese car-sharing platform, raised an undisclosed amount of Series C funding in the “hundreds of millions,” per DealStreetAsia. Investors in the company have included Baidu Ventures and Nio Capital. Read more.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Carlyle and Pacific Equity Partners raised their takeover offer for Link Administration Holdings (AUX: LNK), an Australian fund administration firm, to about A$2.9 billion ($2 billion). Read more.

- Carlyle Group is nearing an agreement to acquire Flender, Siemens AG's (DE: SIEGn) mechanical drive arm unit, for about € 2 billion ($2.4 billion), per Bloomberg. Read more.

- Inspired Brands, formed by Roark Capital, is in talks regarding a potential acquisition of Dunkin’ Brands Group (Nasdaq:DNKN), the owner of Baskin Robbins and Dunkin’, per the New York Times. Read more.

- Revolution, backed by Arsenal Capital Partners, acquired Polar Plastics Corporation, an Oakdale, Minn.-based maker of plastic films and bags, from Spell Capital Partners. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- AE Industrial Partners acquired PCI, a Columbia, Md.-based provider of cybersecurity, computer network operations, cloud, systems engineering, enterprise IT, and data analytics to the intelligence and defense communities. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- Bayer AG agreed to acquire Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, a North Carolina-based biopharmaceutical company specializing in the research, development and manufacturing of gene therapies, from TPG. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- The Carlyle Group acquired Calastone, a London-based maker of a funds network. Accel and Octopus Ventures back the firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHER

- Cenovus Energy (TO:CVE) agreed to acquire Husky Energy (TO:HSE), a Canadian oil and gas producer and rival, in an all-stock deal valuing the latter at C$3.8 billion ($2.9 billion). Read more.

- Coca-Cola European Partners is in talks to acquire Coca-Cola Amatil, an Australia-based bottler and distributor of beverages in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more.

The family behind Lesaffre, a yeast manufacturer, may sell off stakes in the business. Read more.

IPO

- Databricks, a San Francisco-based data analytics company, is preparing for an IPO that could come in the first half of 2021, per Bloomberg. Databricks has raised from investors including a16z, Coatue, NEA, Tiger Global Management, and BlackRock. Read more.

- Sotera Health, a Broadview Heights, Oh.-based provider of lab services, filed to raise up to $100 million in an IPO. It posted revenue of $778 million in 2019 and losses of $20.9 million. Warburg Pincus and GTCR back the firm. Read more.

SPAC

- TS Innovation Acquisitions, a real estate-focused SPAC formed by Tishman Speyer, filed to raise $300 million. Read more.

- Acies Acquisition, a SPAC focused on live, location-based, and mobile experiential entertainment co-founded by a former MGM Resorts International CEO, raised $200 million. Read more.

- Kingswood Acquisition, a finance-focused blank check company formed by Kingswood Group, lowered the amount it plans to raise to $125 million. Read more.

F+FS

- Thoma Bravo raised $22.8 billion in capital commitments across three funds: Thoma Bravo Fund XIV, a $17.8 billion fund; Thoma Bravo Discover Fund III, a $3.9 billion fund; and Thoma Bravo Explore Fund, a $1.1 billion fund.