Issue 13

Foreign companies are eyeing stake in Malaysia Airlines, says Daim

Suitors from Europe, Asia and the Middle East are eyeing a stake in national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS), according to the chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons, Daim Zainuddin. 

The Council of Eminent Persons was formed after Malaysia’s 14th general elections in May 2018 to advise the government on matters pertaining to economic and financial matters. 

Daim added that the foreign companies are interested in buying a stake, and not the entire airline, which is currently 100 per cent owned by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. 

“Alhamdulillah, those who are keen to buy MAB stocks are either from Asia, Europe and the Middle East. They have expressed their wish to the government and some have written to me. They can do research on the company (MAS),” he said in an interview on Malaysia’s free-to-air TV3’s prime-time Buletin Utama on Monday. 

According to Daim, if a foreign company picked up an interest in MAS, the national carrier will get both capital and expertise to resuscitate itself. The government, he said, should not interfere with the carrier’s operations, and only lend its support by helping secure landing rights at strategic locations. In the interview, the former Minister of Finance said he does not see the need to review the proposed merger between MAS and low-cost carrier AirAsia Group Bhd. 

“Malaysia Airlines is a premium airline, while AirAsia is a low-cost carrier. It is better that they compete … [We get] better value then,” he said. Loss-making MAS has sought to turn itself around since it was privatised by Khazanah in 2014. 

It has been at the centre of two aviation tragedies – the disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17. Earlier this month, Khazanah demanded that the airline produce a turnaround plan. Last week, Khazanah managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said the fund’s investment in MAS remains relevant despite the airline missing its target to breakeven last year, causing Khazanah a RM 7.3 billion ($1.78 billion) impairment loss in 2018.


From – Deal Street Asia


FWD revives talks to buy Thai Siam Commercial’s $3b insurance unit

FWD Group, backed by billionaire Richard Li, has revived talks about a potential acquisition of the life insurance operations of Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank Pcl after a two-year hiatus. 

Siam Commercial reached a preliminary pact with FWD on a potential life-insurance partnership, the lender said in a Bangkok exchange filing Friday, confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report. 

A deal would see FWD acquire Siam Commercial’s life insurance unit and sign a long-term distribution agreement with the lender, according to the filing. FWD and Siam Commercial have entered into exclusive negotiations to finalize terms of a transaction, the filing shows. 

The business could be valued at around $3 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said. The final price tag would depend on the outcome of due diligence, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. 

No binding agreements have been reached, and there’s no certainty the discussions will result in a deal, according to Friday’s filing. Siam Commercial, Thailand’s biggest listed lender by assets, had unsuccessfully explored a sale of its life insurance business back in 2017 at a mooted valuation of around $3 billion. It held talks with potential buyers including FWD, AIA Group Ltd., Manulife Financial Corp. and Prudential Plc, though discussions ultimately fell apart over price, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time. 

After the previous talks with Siam Commercial fell apart, FWD renewed a distribution deal with Bangkok-based TMB Bank Pcl. An acquisition of SCB Life Assurance Pcl would help FWD expand in a nation where it already has more than 900,000 customers. 

FWD, which manages more than $28 billion of assets and is backed by Swiss Re AG, had over 3 million customers spread across eight Asian markets, according to its website. Li, the son of Hong Kong’s richest man, formed the company after spending $2.1 billion to buy ING Groep NV’s insurance and pension units in Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand in 2013. FWD has been acquisitive as it expands across Asia. 

It agreed in October to buy control of Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Indonesian life insurance arm. In 2017, it bought American International Group Inc.’s Japanese life unit, after earlier making acquisitions in Singapore and Vietnam. It has also hired former Deutsche Bank AG dealmaker Tan Boon-Kee as senior adviser for mergers and acquisitions.

From – Deal Street Asia

Singapore-based customer loyalty platform Perx raises $5m Series B

Singapore-based customer loyalty platform Perx Technologies on Tuesday announced raising a $5 million Series B round from investors including LINE Ventures, Access Ventures and NCORE VENTURES. 

The round was joined by strategic family offices, returning investors Eduardo Saverin and Capital Management Group, according to a statement. 

Perx offers a solution that combines a SaaS loyalty management system and omnichannel marketing technologies for offline and online engagement. Its clients include HSBC, Prudential, UOB, Digi, Abenson Group, and Central Group. 

“Perx has developed an intuitive data driven SaaS platform that helps address a critical issue faced by many large enterprises across the world: customer engagement,” said Saverin. 

The startup said it will use proceeds from the latest funding round to strengthen research and development efforts and intensify new client acquisition activities. It also plans to focus on growing partnerships with global software and technology companies. 

“C-level executives are tired of spending wasteful money on adtech that promotes mass marketing, which is too often unquantifiable into sales or revenue, nor is continuing with their expensive legacy static loyalty programs an option for the rapidly evolving consumers in the digital economy,” said Perx CEO Anna Gong in a statement. 

Prior to its latest investment round, Perx had raised funding from Malaysia-based RHL Ventures.

From – Deal Street Asia

Indonesia’s Lion Air said to prepare for $1b IPO

Lion Air has started preparations for a domestic initial public offering, people with knowledge of the matter said, as Indonesia’s biggest private carrier seeks to move past an October crash that triggered the crisis surrounding Boeing Co.’s 737 Max plane. 

The company is working with advisers on the planned share sale, which could take place as soon as this year, the people said. Lion Air has been discussing a fundraising target of around $1 billion, though it hasn’t set precise terms for the deal, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. 

Lion Air is planning to start preliminary meetings with investors as soon as this week to sound out early interest ahead of the potential deal, the people said. The company will decide whether to proceed after seeing their feedback and could target to list some time after next month’s presidential election, according to the people. 

More evidence has been emerging about potential problems with the 737 Max plane model involved in last year’s fatal Lion Air flight, which killed all 189 people on board. Indonesian investigators are seeking to conclude their final report on the crash by August. 

A $1 billion share sale would be Indonesia’s third-largest IPO on record, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Lion Air has mooted the possibility of listing as far back as 2005, though the plans have been delayed multiple times due to a flagging Indonesian economy and other issues. A representative for Lion Air declined to comment.

From – Deal Street Asia

SoftBank Vision Fund to join $300m round in Chinese robotic startup Cloudminds

SoftBank Vision Fund is joining a $300 million investment in Cloudminds, helping the Chinese robotics and artificial intelligence startup ramp up production capacity with the goal of tripling its revenue this year. 

Cloudminds, which last raised money in 2017 at a $440 million valuation, aims to sell half a million of its robots this year to Chinese customers from banks and malls to hospitals, Chief Financial Officer Richard Tang said in an interview. 

The latest funds will bankroll, among other things, the expansion of a $20 million production line it’s building in Shanghai that should kick off output in June or July, he said during the Credit Suisse Asian Investment conference. 

The latest funding, which Tang disclosed and hasn’t been previously reported, is in its initial stages and subject to change, he said. Representatives for the Vision Fund, its largest external backer with nearly 30 percent of the company, weren’t immediately available for comment. 

Four-year-old Cloudminds hopes to capitalize on a growing mania for robots across a swathe of industries from restaurants and retail to hotels. Its signature machine is the XR1, which for nearly $50,000 comes equipped with voice, motion and vision as a platform that other developers can then write software to customize. 

It’s planning to expand into the U.S. in a small way this year, selling several hundred robots, then Japan in 2020, Tang added. Robots have so far failed to fire the public’s imagination outside of factories and warehouses. 

Boston Dynamics, a much-ballyhooed firm started by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, spent more than a dozen years developing four-legged automatons but still hasn’t proven they can be commercialized. 

Most of the $2.1 billion spent by consumers in 2017 on household robots was for automated vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers — not exactly cutting-edge. Cloudminds builds robots with dexterity and versatility, Tang said. 

Its XR1 can hold an egg, sew with a needle and pour water, he said. Its machines, which can function as guards in a residential complex or as service droids, combine internet computing power with in-device processing, Tang added. 

The startup intends to further ramp up its in-house production in coming years. The Shanghai line it’s building will produce 100,000 joints for robots this year once it’s up and running, a key component for mobility (every XR1 needs 34). That’s roughly 3,000 XR1 droids in 2019, Tang said. 

While the XR1 and its ilk can record images and sound, Tang says it needs user-permission to collect and store information such as facial data. It’s deepening its footprint in America but Tang said any U.S. data it collects will be stored locally, not transmitted overseas.

From – Deal Street Asia
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