Issue 8

Malaysia’s Khazanah to declare $240m dividend payout for 2019

Malaysia’s $39-billion sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd is set to declare more than RM1 billion ($240 million) in dividend payout to the government for 2019, according to its CEO Shahril Ridza Ridzuan. 

Speaking to the local media, Shahril declined to comment on its upcoming strategy shift to increase cash delivery to the Malaysian government by shedding stakes in non-strategic assets and dial back its offshore presence. 

The development to reset Khazanah’s investment strategy was first reported by Reuters. Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has criticised the potential change in investment strategy for Khazanah, asking “where is the logic” for such a move. 

Najib is currently embroiled in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) financial scandal, for an alleged theft of $4.5 billion from 1MDB. At least six countries, including the US, have launched money laundering and graft probes into 1MDB, which is Najib’s brainchild. 

“Even if it is to pay government debt, where is the logic to sell assets which generated a profit of 14.7 per cent each year to pay debt which has interest charges of 3.8 per cent per year?” asked Najib. Among the biggest divestments made by Khazanah last year was selling its 16 per cent stake in Malaysia-based healthcare group IHH Healthcare Bhd to Japan’s Mitsui & Co. Ltd for $2 billion in cash. 

Besides IHH Healthcare, Khazanah’s core investments include Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, CIMB Group, Axiata Group Bhd, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and UEM Sunrise Bhd. The fund has undergone a major management shakeup since Malaysians voted former prime minister Najib Razak-led government out of office on May 9, 2018. 

Current prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the government will look into restructuring the country’s assets to pare national debt. Commenting on national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s (MAS) turnaround plan, Shahril said, any additional funding for the airline from Khazanah will be based on its proposal. 

“…they must first come out with their own strategy. We are still waiting for them to come back to us with their strategy,” he said. The Edge Malaysia reported that Khazanah has asked MAS to produce a strategic plan to boost its competition in the aviation industry and to deliver better returns. 

The sovereign wealth fund took MAS private in 2014 and has invested about RM6 billion ($1.47 billion) in the business.


From – Deal Street Asia


InterContinental acquires Bangkok-headquartered Six Senses for $300m

InterContinental Hotels Group has agreed to buy the brands and operating companies of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas for $300 million in cash, the owner of the Crowne-Plaza and Holiday Inn chains said on Wednesday, in a move that beefs up its luxury portfolio. 

IHG, which has been pressured by competition from online rental services like Airbnb, has looked to re-focus on competing with the sprawling luxury portfolios run by Marriott and Hilton. 

“Six Senses is an outstanding brand in the top-tier of luxury and one we’ve admired for some time,” Chief Executive Officer Keith Barr said of the deal, which takes IHG’s total portfolio of luxury hotels to 400 properties with 108,000 rooms. 

Six Senses currently manages 16 hotels and resorts, with 18 management contracts signed in its pipeline, and more than 50 further deals under active discussion. 

It operates properties in the Maldives, the Seychelles, Thailand, Oman, and Portugal’s Douro Valley among others. The company said it expects to expand Six Senses, which generates fee revenues of over $13 million, to more than 60 properties globally over the next decade, including to the high-end West Chelsea, Manhattan area of New York City. 

The acquisition from private asset management firm Pegasus Capital Advisors does not include any real estate assets and would generate a return approximately equal to its cost of capital by the fourth year after the purchase, IHG said.

From – Deal Street Asia

Lenovo Capital leads $10m Series A round for robotics firm Vincross

Beijing-based consumer robotics firm Vincross announced that it has raised $10 million in a Series A+ funding round led by Lenovo Group’s tech startup fund Lenovo Capital, with backing from returning investor GGV Capital and newcomer Seekdource Capita. 

Vincross, the company behind the six-legged robot Hexa, said it will use the fresh funds for research and development and to expand its line of robotics. The latest round brings the company’s total funding amount to date to more than $17 million. 

The company raised $221,500 for its crowdfunding for Hexa in August 2017. The all-terrain robot can walk, climb, and travel across rough terrain, making it suitable for scientific expeditions and with potential uses in firefighting and rescue operations. Vincross was founded in 2014 by Tsinghua University AI scientist Tianqi Sun. 

Before starting Vincross, Sun worked as an AI scientist at Tsinghua University, where he spent his time exploring neural networks of animals, making the important connection between biology and AI. He conducted similar research at Microsoft Research Asia. 

Sun told TechCrunch that Lenovo’s investment in Vincross is aligned with its vision of having robotics as consumer electronics products in everyone’s home in the future. Aside from the funding round, Vincross, which has operations in the US, also announced a new developer kit called Mind to serve customers at all levels of building capacities. 

Both Hexa and Mind Kit are run by the Mind robot operating system, which can be used to custom code robots to carry out specific tasks. As with Hexa, users can share ways to create new robots in the Mind OS forum. Lenovo Capital, the lead investor in Vincross’s latest funding round, has made a number of tech investments last year. According to Crunchbase data, the tech startup fund participated in the seed round of MileBot Robotics, a Shenzhen-based robotics firm. 

It also led the $20-million Series A in Shanghai-based CMOS image censor chip design firm SmartSens Technology and participated in the $10-million Series A funding round in Serica Integrated Circuits Technologies, a digital information encryption and decryption chip manufacturer based in Beijing.

From – Deal Street Asia

BlackRock, KKR said to mull $4-5b investment in ADNOC pipeline unit

U.S. investment firms BlackRock Inc and KKR & Co Inc are in advanced talks to take a $4 billion to $5 billion stake in Abu Dhabi National Oil Co’s (ADNOC) pipeline network, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday. 

The deal could be signed as early as next week, the newspaper reported, citing people briefed on the matter. State-owned ADNOC was looking to sell a stake in its multibillion-dollar pipeline infrastructure assets, Reuters had reported in early October. 

ADNOC has started a major transformation drive in the past two years to make it more competitive and commercially focused like other state-owned peers, selling and listing stakes in parts of its business. 

BlackRock and KKR did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, while ADNOC declined to comment.

From – Deal Street Asia

Gobi Partners co-leads $20m Series C for SG-based AI startup ViSenze

Shanghai- and Kuala Lumpur-based venture capital firm Gobi Partners and Europe-based corporate venture investor Sonae IM have co-led a $20-million Series C funding round for ViSenze, a Singapore-based artificial intelligence startup that focuses on e-commerce and online advertising. 

Other participants in the funding round include new investors Tembusu ICT Fund, 31Ventures Global Innovation Fund, and Jonathan Coon’s Impossible Ventures. Existing investors Rakuten, WI Harper, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Ventures, Raffles Venture Partners, Enspire Capital, and UOB Venture Management also participated. 

The startup, which has offices in the US, UK, China, South Korea, India, and Singapore, develops advanced visual search and image recognition solutions for retailers and publishers. Its system allows retailers to convert images into immediate product search opportunities. Visenze plans to use the proceeds from the latest funding round to expand its visual commerce technology and enhance its platform solutions. 

“Visuals have incredible power and influence over buying decisions, therefore having visual search capabilities within mobile devices delivers a modern, smarter way to ensure discovery by consumers,” said ViSenze CEO and co-founder Oliver Tan. 

Since its inception in 2012, ViSenze said it has seen a steady annual revenue growth rate of over 200 per cent. It has also expanded globally with over 80 employees to meet the needs of global customers. It originally started as a part of NExT, a research centre jointly established by National University of Singapore and Tsinghua University of China. The latest funding round raised ViSenze’s total funding amount to $34.5 million. 

It last raised $10.5 million in a Series B round in 2016 backed by eight investors. Gobi Partners managing director Dan Chong said ViSenze’s business has the opportunity to significantly scale up as the e-commerce markets across the world continue to expand and shoppers are becoming more mobile-centric “As ViSenze helps their clients to capture this group of consumers and adapt to their shopping behavior, the opportunity to scale its business significantly presents itself,” Chong said. 

Sonae IM CEO Eduardo Piedade said the technology being introduced by ViSenze will continue to “shape the future of retail” as more retailers and brands now offer visual search capabilities to accelerate the time to shop and improve consumer buying experience. Sonae IM is the technology investment arm of Sonae Group, a multinational with more than €6 billion ($6.8 billion) in revenues and core activities in retail and telecommunications.

From – Deal Street Asia
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