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Will the short sellers come for Oatly?

May 21, 2021, 2:28 PM UTC

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I’ll admit it: I like oat milk. I like it so much, I don’t really mind the questionable added sugar content. And I’m not alone: The product is facing a production shortage as we speak.

That said, at a nearly $12 billion valuation, Swedish oat milk maker Oatly will have no shortage of doubters. The skeptics’ main argument boils down to this: It’s expensive for a consumer packaged goods company, it has less than great margins, and it has a questionable moat. After going public on Thursday, the oat milk company’s market capitalization now sits at 25 times its revenue for the last 12 months ($477.2 million), and the company has gross margins of around 30%, which is low for the industry (while not apples to apples, Coca-Cola has gross margins of about 59%). Meanwhile, a multitude of other oat milk and alternative dairies are hitting store shelves. The road to overall profitability, in short, will not be an easy one. Oatly lost about $84.6 million in the 12 months ending in March.

It’s very similar to the argument that attracted the short sellers to another company focused on sustainability, Beyond Meat. “Beyond Meat should continue to be one of the more shorted stocks in the market,” wrote S3 Analytics’ Ihor Dusaniwsky in a May 10 note. According to the note, Beyond was the fourth-most-shorted stock in the U.S., with about $1.6 billion of short interest that day.

Still, both Beyond Meat and Oatly have strong brands and marketing in their corner. At least for Beyond Meat, its focus on sustainability (it argues that plant-based production methods are less costly to the environment than using animals) is one that has made it akin to Tesla in Dusaniwsky’s view—meaning belief and loyalty can play an outsized role in its stock price. On the other side of the trade, short sellers have been burned badly by ill-timed bets on Beyond Meat before, and yet, they continue trying. I would not be surprised to see similar volatility in Oatly as it matures in public markets.

INVESTORS PEEL AWAY FROM PLASTIC: Here’s an interesting stat from Refinitiv. Private equity investments in plastic packaging companies between 2016 to 2020 slowed by a third compared to the five-year period prior, to $1.3 billion. Yes, deals are still happening, as some plastic packaging is not so easily replaced by alternatives. (PE firm Lindsay Goldberg sold Schur Flexibles, a food and pharmaceuticals packaging maker, to B&C earlier this week.). But as governments around the world are cutting down on plastic, so too are investors.

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

VENTURE DEALS

- Loom, a San Francisco-based video messaging platform for work, raised $130 million in Series C funding, valuing it at roughly $1.5 billion. Andreessen Horowitz led the round. 

- Virtuo, a Paris-based car rental startup, raised $60 million in Series C funding. AXA Venture Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Bpifrance, Alpha Intelligence Capital and H14.

- Immuta, a Boston-based provider of cloud data access control, raised $90 million in Series D funding. New investors included Greenspring Associates, March Capital, NGP Capital, and Wipro Ventures, as well as participation from existing investors Ten Eleven Ventures, Intel Capital, DFJ Growth, Dell Technologies Capital, Citi Ventures, and Okta Ventures.

- Pitch, a Berlin-based collaborative presentation platform, raised $85 million in Series B funding. Lakestar and Tiger Global led the round and were joined by investors including Index Ventures and Thrive Capital.

- TaniHub Group, an Indonesian startup matching farmers to customers, raised $65.5 million in Series B funding. MDI Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Add Ventures, BRI Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Intudo Ventures, Openspace Ventures, Tenaya Capital, UOB Venture Management and Vertex Ventures.

- ProducePay, a Los Angeles-based financing, analytics, and marketplace startup for the fresh produce market, raised $43 million in Series C funding. G2VP, International Finance Corp. and IDB Invest led the round and were joined by investors including Anterra Capital, Coventure, Astanor Ventures, IGNIA, and Finistere.

- Great Deals, a Philippines-based company for building online retail operations, raised $30 million in Series B funding. Fast Group led the round and was joined by investors including CVC Capital Partners and Navegar.

- Cervest, a London-based maker of a climate risk analysis platform, raised $3o million in Series A funding. Draper Esprit led the round and was joined by investors including Astanor Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, Future Positive Capital, UNTITLED, the venture fund of Magnus Rausing, and TIME Ventures.

- HAYA Therapeutics, a Swiss maker of medicines for tissue- and cell-specific long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), raised CHF18 million ($20 million) in seed funding. Broadview Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Apollo Health Ventures, BERNINA BioInvest, 4See Ventures, Schroder Adveq and Viva BioInnovator.

- Found, a San Francisco-based maker of a platform for the self-employed and freelancers, raised $12.8 million. Sequoia led the round.

- FreightWaves, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based supply chain company, raised $16 million. Triangle Peak Partners led the round and was joined by investors including 8VC, Hearst Ventures, Prologis Ventures, Rise of the Rest fund, Fontinalis and Kayne Partners.

- WeaveGrid, a developer of electric vehicle charging solutions, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Coatue led the round and was joined by investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, The Westly Group, and Grok Ventures.

- Portside, a San Francisco-based maker of software for aviation industry players, raised $17 million. Tiger Global Management led the round and was joined by investors including I2BF Global Ventures and SOMA Capital.

- Pearl Certification,  a Charlottesville, Va.-based certifier of homes, raised $9.5 million in Series A funding. Clean Energy Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Keller Enterprises, the Felton Group, and the Clean Energy Ventures Group

- Boox, a Petaluma, Calif.-based sustainable e-commerce infrastructure  company, raised $9.3 million in Series A funding. Valor Siren Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Village Global and Kid VC.

- &Open, a Dublin-based platform for sending gifts to customers, raised $7.2 million. First Round Capital and LocalGlobe led the seed round and were joined by investors including Andrew Robb (Farfetch), Des Traynor (Intercom) and Liam Casey (PCH).

- Cloud Campaign, a Boulder-based operating system for marketing agencies and freelancers, raised $5 million in Series A funding. Oregon Venture Fund and Access Venture Partners led the round.

- Spot Meetings, a Chicago-based maker of a meeting product, raised $5 million in seed funding. Ilya Fushman at Kleiner Perkins led the round.

- The Grand, a New York City-based learning and development platform , raised $2.4 million in pre-seed funding. Seven Seven Six led the round.

- Factory14, a Luxembourg-based acquirer of companies growing on Amazon, raised $200 million of largely debt. Dmg Ventures and DN Capital led the equity round, though the company did not disclose the breakdown between debt and equity.  

- Uncapped, a London-based startup financing e-commerce companies, raised $80 million in debt and equity. Lakestar led the round.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Crane 1 Services, a portfolio company of Pfingsten, acquired Overhead Material Handling, an Oak Creek, Wis.-based provider of crane services and equipment. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Zing Health Enterprises, a portfolio company of Newlight Partners, agreed to acquire Lasso Healthcare Insurance, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based Medicare Advantage health plan company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- OMERS will acquire Gastro Health, a Miami-based platform for finding doctors specializing in gastrointestinal health, for around $950 million, per PE Hub. Audax backs Gastro.

- Ford Motor is considering a divestment from Spin, its electric scooter-sharing service, per Bloomberg.

- Saint-Gobain will acquire Chryso, a France-based maker of concrete admixtures and cement additives, from Cinven. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHER

- Owl Rock and Dyal officially merged to form Blue Owl Capital (NYSE: OWL), an alternative asset management firm formed through a merger with Altimar Acquisition, a SPAC.

IPOS

- Bright Health Group, a Minneapolis-based health insurance provider, filed for an IPO. NEA, Bessemer, and Greenspring Associates back the firm.

- Zhangmen Education, a Chinese online after-school tutoring platform, filed for an IPO.

- Janux Therapeutics, a La Jolla, Calif.-based biotech focused on cancer, filed to raise $100 million. Avalon Ventures and R.A. Capital Management back the firm.

- SmartFit, a Brazilian gym chain, filed for an IPO. Investors include Patria Investiments, Canada’s CPP Investments and GIC.

SPACS

- Jam City, a Los Angeles-based mobile game developer, will go public via merger with DPCM Capital, a SPAC. A deal values the duo at $1.2 billion.

- Kin Insurance, a Chicago-based home insurance startup, is in talks to go public via Omnichannel Acquisition, a SPAC backed by “Shark Tank” guest judge Matt Higgins, per Bloomberg.

F+FS

- White Star Capital raised $50 million for a digital asset fund focused on crypto and blockchain.

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