This past week, we saw multiple successful Canadian tech company public market debuts, including Sophic Client Luckbox (LUCK-TXSV), Emerge Commerce (ECOM-TSXV) and WeCommerce (WE-TSXV). While in the USA, ContextLogic (WISH-NASDAQ) was down 16% on its IPO. That said, recent tech IPOs and strong tech stock performance has left experts scratching their heads and led to the introduction of new structured products. At the same time, the potential IPO, SPAC list continues to grow, with listings expected by Poshmark, Bumble, UiPath, Coinbase, Playtika, Tokopedia, indie Semiconductor.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Billionaire investor Andrew Wilkinson on WeCommerce’s (WE-TSXV) trading debut. Bill Ackman and Howard Marks’ family office were said to be investors in WeCommerce. http://cnb.cx/3nmn1N8

AbCellera officially closes initial public offering with US$555.5 million gross proceeds. Vancouver biotech company AbCellera Biologics has officially announced the close of its initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq, pulling in gross proceeds of US$555.5 million. The amount includes the company’s underwriters exercising in full their option to purchase 3.6 million additional common shares at US$20 (all numbers in USD). AbCellera has developed a drug discovery platform that searches and analyzes immune systems to find antibodies. AbCellera began trading on the Nasdaq Friday morning (under the symbol ‘ABCL’), with great initial success. Within minutes of listing the biotech’s stock tripled in value from the US$20 per share that it had priced its IPO at. By the afternoon AbCellera’s shares were trading higher than US$70. The announcement of its gross proceeds makes Abcellera the largest-ever IPO for a Canadian biotech company and the most valuable Canadian biotech company, Prior to listing, AbCellera increased the size of its IPO three times. The company had initially set out to raise US$200 million, on Monday AbCellera upped the price of its shares and did so a second time on Thursday. According to The Globe and Mail, the deal was “20 times oversubscribed by prospective investors.” http://bit.ly/3nzuicr

MindBeacon prices IPO, looks to pull in $65 million at $8 per share. Toronto-based digital mental health treatment startup MindBeacon has priced its initial public offering (IPO), setting the common shares of the company at $8 per share for aggregate gross proceeds of $65 million. The offering includes 8,125,000 common shares of MindBeacon at $8 per share and a concurrent secondary offering for underwriterss, which, if the over-allotment option is exercised, is expected to bring in approximately $10 million. According to The Globe and Mail, the company and its underwriters increased the target size of the offering twice this week before settling on the current pricing. MindBeacon previously raised $38 million in Series A capital from a group of investors that included Green Shield Canada, Manulife, and Telus Ventures. Telus is among the selling shareholders for the IPO. http://bit.ly/3p86NYt

Neo Financial reveals $50 million total financing as startup expands nationally. Neo Financial, the newest Canadian challenger bank startup looking to shake up the financial sector, has announced $50 million and launched its savings account product nationally this week. The raise is comprised of a $25 million Series A equity round that was led by Peter Thiel-backed firm Valar Ventures, and a $25 million debt facility provided by ATB Financial, Neo’s banking partner for some of its products, which includes a savings account, Mastercard, and merchant rewards program. The financing is sizeable for a Canadian startup, a possibly not surprising feat for a company that was created by two of the co-founders of SkipTheDishes. With its repeat founders and a goal of challenging the status quo in banking, Neo has garnered interest from some notable investors. In addition to Valar Ventures, Neo also received investment from Shopify’s Tobi Lutke, Golden Ventures, Inovia Capital, Thomvest, Afore Capital, Maple VC, FJ Labs, and District Ventures. http://bit.ly/37y5bRP

Real Luck Group (LUCK-TSXV, Sophic Client) offers chance to get into esports betting at level-one. Luckbox operating arm is a dedicated esports betting site. Currently accepting customers from about 80 territories globally. Plans underway to add new sports, casino and develop B2B offering. With Generation Z more likely to watch computer games than traditional sports, esports is becoming ever more mainstream and even before the coronavirus pandemic was predicted to be facing the highest growth potential of any sport. Luckbox has seen first-hand the spike in players moving from betting on sports to betting on esports in 2020 and has managed to lock up around 75% of its customer gains. http://bit.ly/38heuom

FansUnite Entertainment (FANS-CSE) announces upsizing of previously announced brokered private placement led by Gravitas Securities Inc. to $11 million due to strong investor demand. Pursuant to the increase, the Company will offer for sale up to an aggregate of 17,600,000 special warrants of the Company (the “Special Warrants“) at a price of $0.625 per Special Warrant for aggregate gross proceeds of approximately $11 million (the “Offering“). The Company has also amended the option granted to the Agents, to provide for the sale of up to an additional 2,640,000 Special Warrants (the “Over-Allotment Option“), which Over-Allotment Option is exercisable in whole or in part at any time up to 30 days following the closing of the Offering. The initial closing date is expected to be on or about the week of January 11th, 2021 (the “Closing Date” or “Closing“) and the Offering may be completed in one or more closings at the discretion of the Lead Agent. http://bit.ly/3nzJFl5

ESE Entertainment (ESE-TSXV) announces upsize to previously announced private placement. The company upsized its non-brokered private placement, in response to demand from the market. The Company will now be issuing up to 2,954,545 units of the company at a price of $1.10 per Unit, for aggregate gross proceeds of up to $3.25 million. Each Unit will be composed of one common share and one-half of one common share purchase warrant, each Warrant to be exercisable for two years at $1.50 per ESE Share. http://bit.ly/3muUW56

Engine Media (GAME-TSV) to retire up to US$11.6 million of debt through shares for debt transactions. The Company reached agreement with holders of US$8 million of its convertible debentures to retire their debentures in exchange for the Company’s issuance of common shares and warrants. The convertible debentures being settled are convertible into units at a conversion price ranging from US$7.50 to US$11.25 per unit, with each such unit consisting of a common share and one-half of a warrant, with each whole warrant exercisable into a common share at an exercise price of US$15 per share for a period of three years from the issuance of the debentures.  The debentures have a base interest rate of 5% that increases to 10% under certain conditions. In exchange for settlement of the debentures, the holders will receive units of the Company equivalent to the principal amount of the debentures based on a price of US$7.50 per unit. Each unit shall be comprised of one common share and three-quarter (3/4) of a warrant, with each full warrant exercisable into a common share at an exercise price of US$15 per share for a period of three years. https://bit.ly/3mvvJY7

GoFor Industries raises $20 million Series A for last-mile delivery solution. Ottawa-based startup GoFor Industries has raised a $20 million Series A round to further its expansion into the United States. GoFor provides last-mile, on-demand and same-day delivery through its logistics solutions and delivery services for the home improvement and construction industries. http://bit.ly/3arfzwH

AutoLeap raises $8 million as former FieldEdge CEOs tackle local auto repair industry. Toronto-based startup AutoLeap has closed an $8 million seed round, comprising $6.4 million in equity and $1.6 million in venture debt. The round was led by Threshold Ventures, with participation from Maple VC, Global Founders Capital, Codename Ventures, and former NFL and San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana, through his venture capital firm Liquid2 Ventures. It also included angel investors from the automotive industry, such as former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, Shift Technologies co-CEO George Arison, and former Bridgestone executive Ned Aguilar. The venture debt was provided by Silicon Valley Bank. http://bit.ly/3re7SQu

RockMass Technologies raises $2.5 million to provide safe state-of-the-art digital solutions to mines around the world. RockMass Technologies, an industrial tech startup that makes mining faster and safer through digital data capture solutions, has raised $2.5 million CAD of Seed Round financing. These funds will expand RockMass’s global presence, extend its product offerings to geologists and geotechnical engineers, and integrate RockMass’s tools with major software analytics players. An environment that is more than one-kilometre underground, in pure darkness, with high humidity levels and dust, is a challenging technological environment. Visual inspection of rockface features continues to be common practice with most engineers handwriting notes from a close range, in person. The process can be time consuming and imprecise which can cost mining companies millions of dollars annually through delayed or inaccurate decision making. http://bit.ly/34t1ESK

Kanata software firm You.i TV sold to WarnerMedia in US$100 million deal. Kanata-based You.i TV ​– which attracted more than US$50 million in venture capital over the past decade as it developed cross-platform video apps for customers around the world ​– has been sold to U.S. media giant WarnerMedia LLC, according to a news report. In a story reporting the deal Thursday, the Globe and Mail pegged the value of the transaction at more than US$100 million. A source told the publication the deal is expected to be announced publicly within a matter of days. Since its founding in 2008, the 200-person company has built a high-profile list of customers that includes AT&T ​– the parent company of WarnerMedia and a significant investor in You.i TV ​– Fox and Toronto’s Corus Entertainment as well as major professional sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL. Along the way, the firm landed millions in equity funding from big-name investors, starting in 2015 with $15 million in funding in a round led by California-based Kayne Partners. That same year, the company landed at No. 7 on OBJ’s list of fastest-growing companies on the strength of rising demand for its user interface software that helps people interact with devices from TVs. http://bit.ly/38pHtGu

Borrowell to acquire Refresh Financial. Toronto-based FinTech startup Borrowell is set to acquire Refresh Financial, a fellow Canadian company offering financial products that allow customers to access forms of credit. Borrowell offers a variety of financial services for individuals, spanning credit monitoring and cards, personal loans, mortgages, investing, insurance, and banking. According to the startup, its acquisition of Refresh doubles its size in terms of revenue and employees. While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. According to the startup, its acquisition of Refresh doubles its size in terms of revenue and employees. Refresh is a FinTech startup based out of Central Okanagan, British Columbia. Since it was founded in 2013, the company has offered a Secured Savings Loan, which allows customers to build credit and savings. It later expanded its product line to include a secured Visa credit card. Refresh claims to work with more than 800 referral partner locations across Canada and to have had more than 100,000 Canadian customers. http://bit.ly/38hko93 

Telus Health acquires Montréal’s EQ Care in latest move to increase virtual care reach. Montréal-based virtual care company EQ Care has been acquired by Telus Health, BetaKit has learned. A spokesperson for Telus confirmed the transaction to BetaKit, Friday. The deal has yet to be announced publicly, with sources indicating to BetaKit a possible planned announcement in the new year. Both Telus Health and EQ Care would not comment on the terms of the deal. “This combining of forces ultimately enhances TELUS Health’s existing complement of patient-centric virtual care.” “The acquisition of EQ Care, a leading virtual care provider in Canada, will enable broader access to digital healthcare services and better health outcomes for Canadians, improving the overall patient experience,” the spokesperson said. EQ Care has been operating in the virtual healthcare space for more than 30 years. It has developed a platform that provides patients with 24/7 national and bilingual virtual care from any mobile or internet-connected device. It is considered a pioneer and market leader in Canadian virtual care and claims to have been the first to have offered virtual services in Canada in both English and French in all provinces and territories. http://bit.ly/3p1bKlI

How SpaceX teamed up with a small Canadian IT company to bring its Starlink internet service to an indigenous community. The first location in Canada to receive SpaceX’s Starlink internet service was Pikangikum, a remote 3,000-person indigenous community in north-western Ontario. The project was initiated by a Canadian IT company called FSET. The CEO, Dave Brown told Business Insider how he went about contacting SpaceX to get help for the community. Residents were only receiving 3 megabites per second (Mbps). With Starlink, they’re receiving around 130. The community can access education, healthcare, and contact friends and relatives from outside of Pikangikum. http://bit.ly/38pYNew

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Sizzling tech IPO market leaves investors befuddled. A frenzy has hit the market for newly listed tech stocks. Last week, searing demand sent DoorDash Inc.’s stock up 86% in its trading debut Wednesday, while Airbnb Inc.’s shares more than doubled in their debut a day later. Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky was at a loss for words in a Bloomberg TV appearance when he was told of the company’s opening share price, while multiple investors in the two blistering offerings said they were puzzled by the extraordinary enthusiasm in the market.The reception was so strong that videogame company Roblox Corp. pulled its own planned initial public offering as it tried to make sense of the market. Another startup, financial tech company Affirm Holdings Inc., also delayed its planned IPO over the weekend, although the exact reasons weren’t clear. Valuations of recent IPOs are at their highest levels since the dot-com bubble, relative to the companies’ revenue, sparking concerns among investors about the level of froth. The result has been that the market capitalizations of many money-losing upstarts have become larger than giant, highly profitable stalwarts of corporate America. DoorDash is valued at US$56 billion, just shy of General Motors Co. Airbnb is worth over US$83 billion, more than FedEx Corp. Cloud-software company Snowflake Inc. is worth over US$100 billion, more than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Investors this year have valued newly public tech companies at a median of 23.9 times the revenue they reported in the 12 months before going public, according to University of Florida business professor Jay Ritter, who tracks initial public offerings. That measure is by far the highest of the past two decades. For most of the 2010s, the median multiple for a tech company after its first day of trading hovered around 6 times its revenue in the prior 12 months. The same measurement for stocks on the Nasdaq Composite Index is 4.3, according to FactSet. “The valuations are better in the public markets than private markets, which was not the case in ’19 or ’18,” Rajeev Misra, who runs SoftBank Group Corp.’s US$100 billion Vision Fund, said in a conversation with an analyst at New Street Research LLP last month. “The public markets are very buoyant.” http://on.wsj.com/3rkkHsz

JPMorgan rolls out a supercharged tech trade designed to amplify gains in stocks like Tesla, report says. Tech stocks have led the stock market to several record highs in 2020. JPMorgan thinks investors want to double down on the sector. The bank is letting investors in on a new trade that amplifies bets on three tech-focused exchange-traded funds, Bloomberg reported on Monday. The product tracks three ETFs from Ark Investment Management leveraged 1.5 times over a six-year period. JPMorgan has already sold $589,000 worth of the notes. The funds – Ark’s Innovation, Genomic Revolution, and Next Generation Internet ETFs – are among the year’s best performers. Large stakes in Tesla boosted the Innovation and Next Generation Internet funds in 2020, as the automaker’s shares have rallied more than 660% through the year. The Genomic Revolution ETF is up 194% year-to-date. The Innovation and Next Generation Internet ETFs have rallied 154% and 153%. JPMorgan debuted the product as investors begin to rotate out of tech stocks. The sector’s insulation from the virus fallout led them to outperform through much of the year, but hopes that a vaccine will fuel a recovery in 2021 have prompted mass shifts into value stocks and previously neglected sectors. A prolonged rotation could drag tech stocks lower and weigh heavily on the new product’s gains. https://bit.ly/2WkE3iA

Online thrift store Poshmark files to go public after consecutive profitable quarters. Online clothing reseller Poshmark filed its IPO prospectus on Thursday, after racking up over US$30 million in profit over the past two quarters. Poshmark, founded in 2011, is an internet marketplace for second-hand clothing, shoes and accessories. Like eBay, Poshmark connects buyers with sellers, who often list items from their own closet. The company makes money by taking a cut of each transaction. Poshmark’s filing is landing in investors’ laps after last week’s IPOs of DoorDash and Airbnb, which are also marketplace businesses, resulted in huge first-day pops, potentially indicating public market appetite for the business model. Discount online retailer Wish followed with its IPO this week, though its stock price fell out of the gate. http://cnb.cx/2LT3J4b

Bumble, the company best known for its online dating app, has reportedly filed confidential paperwork for an initial public offering, according to Bloomberg. The company’s offering could come in February, the report said, potentially timed around Valentine’s Day. A spokeswoman from Bumble declined to comment on the company’s IPO plans. Bumble may be targeting a valuation of US$6 billion to US$8 billion through an IPO, Bloomberg said, citing unnamed sources. Bumble competes against online-dating giant Match Group Inc.which operates a portfolio of dating brands including Tinder, OkCupid, and the namesake Match property. Match is valued at just over US$40 billion. http://on.mktw.net/37vZu6O

UiPath files confidential IPO paperwork with SEC. UiPath, Inc. today announced that it has submitted a draft registration statement on a confidential basis to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) for a proposed public offering of its Class A common stock. The number of shares of Class A common stock to be sold and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. UiPath intends to commence the public offering following completion of the SEC review process, subject to market and other conditions,” the company said in a statement. The company has raised more than US$1.2 billion from investors like Accel, CapitalG, Sequoia and others. Its biggest raise was US$568 million led by Coatue on an impressive US$7 billion valuation in April 2019. It raised another US$225 million led by Alkeon Capital last July when its valuation soared to US$10.2 billion. http://tcrn.ch/3aqUrX7 

Coinbase files to go public confidentially and we’re hyped. Coinbase, perhaps the best-known American crypto company, announced today that it has filed confidentially to go public. The company’s debut was expected, having been reported earlier in the year. As the well-funded unicorn has filed confidentially, its debut looks to be an early-2021 affair. What sort of flotation the company will pursue is not clear at this stage. Coinbase’s announcement is anodyne, as releases of this sort tend to be. The text of the short blog post does not mention whether Coinbase will pursue a traditional IPO or direct listing, but Slack’s similar message from early 2019 was similarly devoid of information; Slack went public via a direct listing last year before agreeing recently to sell to Salesforce. Coinbase raised extensive known capital while private, including a US$300 million Series E in October of 2018. Its August, 2017 Series D was worth a hair over US$100 million, according to Crunchbase data. Tiger Global, Andreessen Horowitz, DFJ Growth and IVP are among the investors that led rounds into the crypto-focused fintech company. http://tcrn.ch/2WxdkiZ 

Mobile game giant Playtika files for an IPO. Israel-based mobile gaming giant Playtika has filed for its long-awaited initial public offering (IPO). Now it has a window of opportunity as gaming stocks are riding high, mostly because people are playing while sheltering in place during the pandemic. This window won’t necessarily last forever, particularly if bad economic news knocks the markets down again. But plenty of companies are lining up to take advantage of the moment. Skillz, a mobile esports company, went public on Thursday as it took advantage of the same trading window. Playtika was founded in 2010, and has over 3,700 employees in offices worldwide, such as those in Herzliya (Israel), Chicago, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Tel-Aviv, London, Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki, Montreal, and Sydney. The company makes social casino games such as the World Series of Poker. It has over 35 million monthly active users for its games, and 12 million come back daily. The number of shares to be offered and the price range have not yet been determined. Playtika has applied to list its common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “PLTK.” Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse will act as lead bookrunners for the proposed offering. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, UBS Investment Bank, and BofA Securities will act as additional bookrunners for the proposed offering. Baird, Cowen, Stifel, and Wedbush Securities will act as co-managers for the proposed offering. CEO Robert Antokol founded Playtika as a social casino game company a decade ago. Caesars Interactive Entertainment acquired Playtika in 2011 but sold it to a consortium of Chinese game companies for US$4.4 billion five years later. At that time, Playtika had more than 2,800 employees, but additional deals have expanded the staff to over 4,000 workers. Playtika has now acquired more than 15 companies and grown so big it had to rebrand itself to let employees know what it stands for. http://bit.ly/3mDfB6W 

Thiel-backed Bridgetown SPAC weighs up to US$10 billion Tokopedia deal. Bridgetown Holdings Ltd., the blank-check company backed by billionaires Richard Li and Peter Thiel, is considering a potential merger with Indonesia’s e-commerce giant PT Tokopedia, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The special purpose acquisition company is exploring the structure and feasibility of a deal with Tokopedia, one of the most valuable startups in the southeast Asian nation, the people said. The SoftBank Group Corp.-backed firm could be valued at US$8 billion to US$10 billion in a transaction, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private. Deliberations are at a preliminary stage and Bridgetown could still look at other potential targets, the people said. Hong Kong tycoon Li, whose investment firm Pacific Century Group also owns companies including insurer FWD Group Ltd., is already a minority investor in Tokopedia, the people said. Representatives for Bridgetown and Tokopedia declined to comment. Bridgetown surged as much as 31.5% in New York on Tuesday, its biggest advance ever, before closing 25.7% higher. Bridgetown raised $550 million in a U.S. initial public offering in October, following other so-called blank-check companies such as those associated with billionaire investor Bill Ackman and former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. https://bloom.bg/3mveZQM

Indie Semiconductor to go public through SPAC buyout deal that values company at US$1.4 billion. Indie Semiconductor announced Tuesday an agreement to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Thunder Bridge Acquisition II Ltd. , in a deal that values the combined company at about US$1.4 billion. The deal provides up to US$495 million in cash to the combined company. After the deal is completed, which is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2021, the company will be named indie Semiconductor Inc. and will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “INDI.” Indie is an automotive chip and software company that focuses on sensors for advanced driver assistance systems, including LiDAR. Thunder Bridge went public as a SPAC on Oct. 4, 2019. The stock has gained 4.7% year to date, while the S&P 500 has gained 12.9%. http://on.mktw.net/3adv0bB

Discord confirms raising US$100 million, sources say at a valuation of up to US$7 billion. Discord, the chat and communications platform wildly popular with gamers and, increasingly, many others, has confirmed that it has raised US$100 million more in funding as it hits 140 million monthly active users, double the number it had a year ago. This latest fundraising had been rumored for a while, and some have described it as a “pre-IPO round” for the privately-backed startup. Prime Unicorn notes that Discord’s most recent price per share in the documentation is US$280.2487, with the Series G priced at US$144.1809. Just as the biggest games and gameplay has mass-market, even casual, appeal, so can the platforms that gamers use to communicate. Discord’s growth has exploded in recent years, with monthly active users doubling to 140 million this year with 800,000 downloads a day. http://tcrn.ch/3nyuqco

Sneaker resale app StockX valued at US$2.8 billion. StockX, an app that helps connects consumers who want to buy and sell specialty sneakers, apparel and consumer electronics, said Wednesday it had raised US$275 million from Tiger Global and other investors, valuing the company at US$2.8 billion post money. The Detroit-based firm also said it achieved “break-even” in the third quarter. Revenue for the third quarter rose 75% to more than US$100 million in quarterly GAAP revenue, helped by a boost in international sales and video game consoles such as Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. The company is one of a cluster of venture-backed resale startups that has benefited from an accelerated shift to e-commerce during the pandemic, encouraging it to raise more money. http://bit.ly/3nEmUN2

Alphabet’s Verily raises US$700 million to battle Covid-19. Verily, the life science arm of Alphabet, has raised US$700 million from existing investors Silver Lake, Temasek, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and parent company Alphabet, among others. The funding–Verily’s first since January of 2019–underscores its growing profile as one of the tech companies on the forefront of the battle against Covid-19. Verily said it plans to use the funding to expand its research programs for expanding Covid-19 testing and helping companies and schools return to work safely, as well as its recent foray into employer health insurance. This is also the third time Verily has raised funding from outside investors, representing another step toward independence from Alphabet. http://bit.ly/3rc1JEi

E-Commerce stocks gain amid data showing surge in online sales. Shares of e-commerce companies rallied on Wednesday after new retail data showed that online shopping continued to dominate consumer purchases last month. E-commerce purchases jumped 29% in November, compared with the same period a year ago, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the seventh-consecutive month of growth that exceeded 20%, and represents the biggest monthly increase for e-commerce since at least 2010, Retail Metrics analyst Ken Perkins said. Shopify Inc. gained as much as 8.4% and EBay Inc. rallied 5.4%. Etsy Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. rose at least 2%. http://bloom.bg/38gN5my

Bill Gates predicts the next 4 to 6 months ‘could be the worst of the epidemic’. While the coronavirus vaccine is finally being administered, Bill Gates still says the worst is to come as the US enters the winter months before widespread vaccination is completed. “The next four to six months could be the worst of the epidemic,” Gates said during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. What Gates said echoes what public health experts have been saying for months now, as this winter surge of cases is likely to be the deadliest yet. “If we would follow the rules in terms of wearing masks and not mixing, we could avoid a large percentage of these deaths,” Gates added. “In the near term, it’s bad news.” Gates has long been sounding the alarm about a pandemic, including a 2017 op-ed for Business Insider in which he wrote that “a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year.” (For reference, the global death toll for COVID-19 is 1.9 million.) http://bit.ly/3oYvyX3

Strong iPhone 12 demand sees Apple boost 2021 production. Strong iPhone 12 demand has led Apple to boost iPhone production plans for 2021 by between 20% and 30%, according to a Nikkei report. It says Apple’s total planned iPhone production for the first half of next year is up almost 30% year-on-year, while initial full-year production targets are up by 20% to hit 230 million phones. Apple plans to produce up to 96 million iPhones for the first half of 2021, a nearly 30% year-on-year increase, after demand for its first-ever 5G handsets surged amid the pandemic, Nikkei Asia learned. http://bit.ly/3ax5eiu

Emerging Technologies

Huawei planning to deploy Harmony OS on ‘many of its products’ next year, launching beta to attract app developers. China’s top smartphone vendor Huawei Technologies Co. is racing to get more developers to build apps compatible with its proprietary operating system, Harmony OS, amid plans to deploy the software on more of its devices – including all of its smartphones – by next year. The Shenzhen-based company launched a beta version of Harmony OS 2.0 on Wednesday, targeting smartphone app developers. It aims to roll out the operating system on “many of its products” next year, Huawei told the Post on Friday. Huawei officially unveiled Harmony OS in August last year, about three months after the US announced restrictions that barred the company from including Google apps and services with new products. http://bit.ly/2KDdgvt

Baidu considering making its own electric vehicles. Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc. is mulling over building its own electric vehicle, holding talks with auto makers to contract or to create a joint venture for the endeavor, according to a Reuters report that cited three people familiar with the matter. Baidu declined to comment and Chinese auto makers involved in the talks were mum, Reuters said. Baidu’s American depositary shares jumped nearly 10% on Tuesday, trading as high as US$181.65, a 52-week high. Baidu would become the latest tech and Internet company to set its sights on electric vehicles, following continued investor interest in the segment and share rallies for the likes of Tesla Inc. and China-based Nio Inc. Baidu last weekgot a boost from $1.5 billion increase to its share repurchase program. The ADRs have gained nearly 42% this year, compared with gains around 14% for the S&P 500 index. http://on.mktw.net/3r41PO6

Zoox unveils a self-driving car that could become Amazon’s first robotaxi. Zoox, a self-driving car company that Amazon bought in June, has finally revealed its robotaxi after six years of gnarly prototypes and secrecy. And while it broadly resembles other first-generation autonomous vehicles from automakers and Silicon Valley startups, Zoox’s robotaxi has a few standout features, as well as an overall polish to it that makes obvious why Amazon thinks it might be the cornerstone of a fledgling autonomous ride-hailing service. The autonomous “carriage-style” vehicle is an all-electric four-wheeler that seats up to four people, and is similar in appearance to fully self-driving vehicles created by other companies in the space. At just 3.63 meters long, it falls somewhere in between the big, boxy Origin robotaxi from Cruise (which is owned by General Motors) and the delivery-focused robot made by Nuro. Zoox claims a top speed of 75 miles per hour, hinting at highway use. To further differentiate, Zoox has spent the last few years working on outfitting its autonomous vehicle with the ability to drive both forward and backward, and side to side, or “bi-directionally.” Combined with four-wheel steering functionality, Zoox says its vehicle will be able to handle precise maneuvers like “tight curbside pickups” and “tricky U-turns.” Zoox also claims its vehicle is the first of its kind to be able to travel at up to 75 mph, a possible nod to ambitions to one day put the vehicles on the highway. http://bit.ly/3mlxGq2

Japan confirms its asteroid mission returned samples of space rocks. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, confirmed that its mission to return samples of an asteroid to Earth did indeed bring home some space rocks. Engineers at the agency found black sand they believe to be from an asteroid inside the mission’s sample container. It’s great news for the mission, known as Hayabusa2, which launched to space in 2014. The mission sent a spacecraft to an asteroid named Ryugu to collect samples of rocks from the object’s surface and then bring them back to our planet for study. Hayabusa2 wound up scooping up materials from Ryugu twice before heading back to Earth. The vehicle arrived this month, jettisoning a canister filled with the asteroid samples, which then landed in Australia with the help of a parachute on December 5th. http://bit.ly/3r1En3Z

NASA green lights Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin for future missions, including planetary expeditions and satellite launches. NASA on Wednesday awarded a contract to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin that will allow the aerospace company to compete for future scientific missions. With the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract, Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket could take part in Earth observation missions, planetary expeditions, and satellite launches for the agency, Bezos’ company said Wednesday. The New Glenn rocket is a 310-foot reusable booster, expected to be launched in 2021. It is designed to lift 45 tons into low-Earth orbit — a third more tonnage than SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy can lift. Under the contract, NASA centers in the US will be able to “design spacecraft to take advantage of New Glenn’s unique seven-meter fairing and heavy-lift performance for a broad range of missions.”     NASA said in a statement Wednesday Blue Origin’s that New Glenn would be eligible for missions through December 2027. http://bit.ly/3rbU9JQ 

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

November 2020 NPD hardware sales: Switch, PlayStation 5 split sales victory. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launched last month, and they helped set a new November record, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. But the fever for next-gen consoles didn’t cool off demand for the Nintendo Switch. “Consumers spent a November record US$1.4 billion on new video game hardware, an increase of 58% when compared to a year ago,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said. “Growth was driven by the launches of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles. Year-to-date hardware spending reached US$4 billion, 34% higher than a year ago.” When it comes to the top console of the month, Nintendo and Sony split the victory along predictable lines. “PlayStation 5 was November’s best-selling hardware platform in consumer spending, while Nintendo Switch led the market in units sold,” said Piscatella. “Nintendo Switch has been the best-selling hardware platform in units sold for a record 24 consecutive months.” PlayStation 5 is $500, and the PS5 Digital Edition is US$400. The Switch is US$300 and the Switch Lite is US$200. So even with the Switch outselling PS5, Sony still generated more revenue from its hardware. The demand for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S was intense. And both systems would’ve sold more if it weren’t due to supply constraints. http://bit.ly/3r92vC2

Esports Entertainment signs Philapelphia Eagles esports deal. New York-listed Esports Entertainment Group has signed a partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles to serve as the first esports tournament provider of an NFL club. The multi-year agreement will see Esports Entertainment operate biannual Madden NFL esports tournaments for the Eagles utilizing the Esports Gaming League platform. Under the terms of the deal, the Eagles will also become a shareholder in Esports Entertainment. https://bit.ly/37zNX6q

Disney+ US revenues will surpass $4 billion by 2022. Following a strong launch in November 2019, Disney+ is on track to surpass $4 billion in US subscription revenues by 2022. In its first full year, Disney+ has grown rapidly, spurred by in-demand content and stay-at-home orders. In fact, the service will help The Walt Disney Co. reach Netflix’s share of the market by 2022, according to the inaugural eMarketer OTT subscription revenue forecast by Insider Intelligence. https://bit.ly/37lYy51

Apple reportedly in talks to acquire two animated films produced by John Lasseter. Apple has been working to expand its Apple TV+ subscription streaming service with more exclusive movies and TV shows. According to a new report from Variety, the company is now negotiating with Skydance Animation studios the rights to the animated films “Luck” and “Spellbound,” which were produced by John Lasseter. Lasseter became one of the most famous film producers due to his work as chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, where he was responsible for directing animations such as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Cars — and he even worked directly with Steve Jobs in the early years of Pixar. http://bit.ly/2LTi40B

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Suspected Russian hackers spied on U.S. Treasury emails. Hackers believed to be working for Russia have been monitoring internal email traffic at the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, according to people familiar with the matter, adding they feared the hacks uncovered so far may be the tip of the iceberg. The hack is so serious it led to a National Security Council meeting at the White House on Saturday, said one of the people familiar with the matter. U.S. officials have not said much publicly beyond the Commerce Department confirming there was a breach at one of its agencies and that they asked the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI to investigate. http://reut.rs/34cnkmg

State prosecutors target Google’s search business. A bipartisan group of state attorneys general charged Google with violating antitrust laws by using its market power to favor its platform over rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing. They also allege that Google seeks to illegally expand its search dominance through new technologies including voice assistants and Internet-connected cars. The lawsuit claims that Google uses restrictive agreements with hardware makers to limit emerging search competition from voice assistants and connected cars. The state prosecutors also allege that Google’s ad serving technology, which it claims is neutral, is configured to prioritize its platforms over Bing. The complaint filed today covers some of the same ground as another lawsuit filed against Google by the Justice Deparment in October. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said he would ask a federal court in Washington to consolidate the two lawsuits into a single case.  A third Google antitrust case, filed by another group of state prosecutors, was filed yesterday in Texas. http://bit.ly/3h1P2ap

The FTC is ordering Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and 6 other tech firms to share how they collect, track, and use online consumer data. The US Federal Trade Commission is ordering nine tech companies to provide data to the federal agency on how they collect and use people’s personal information in what is a sweeping crackdown on targeted data tracking. The FTC’s order affects Amazon, TikTok’s China-based parent ByteDance, Discord, Facebook, the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, and Google-owned YouTube, according to a Monday press release. The agency is specifically inquiring as to how social media and video streaming services use and track personal and demographic information, how they target online ads to consumers, how they use algorithms to handle personal information, how they measure and promote user engagement, and how their online practices affect kids and teens. The companies have 45 days to respond to the demands from the day that they receive the FTC’s order. According to Axios, which first reported the news, the FTC probe could result in regulatory action. http://bit.ly/2Kp36yD

Tech firms risk fines of 10% of sales in EU power curb bid. Tech giants deemed to be gatekeepers could face fines as high as 10% of annual revenue if they don’t comply with new European Union rules on data usage to be unveiled Tuesday, according to a draft of the regulation seen by Bloomberg News. Companies that could include Google, Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc. will be banned from using any data from business users to compete with them or from treating their own services more favorably in rankings, among other obligations. Nasdaq futures pared gains. A company that “systemically infringes” the obligations could face orders by the European Commission to make behavioral and structural changes, such as divesting businesses. Companies will be considered to be in systematic non-compliance if the EU has issued at least three fines within a period of five years. The rules are still in draft form and could be subject to revisions. A spokesperson from the European Union declined to comment. Representatives for Google, Apple and Amazon didn’t immediately respond for comment. The new Digital Markets Act will target “gatekeeper” firms, defined by the European Commission by a number of criteria, including the number of users in the millions and overall revenue in the billions of dollars, as well as their significant impact on the single market, the document said. The designations will be updated by the commission every two years, according to the document. The gatekeeper regulation is part of a wider package of tech policies due to be unveiled on Dec. 15. http://bloom.bg/3qWbk1L

The Ad Platform: What to expect for mobile ads in 2021. US mobile ad spending will reach $96.07 billion this year, lower than our pre-pandemic estimate of $105.34 billion. eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence Yoram Wurmser joins host Nicole Perrin to discuss why despite this year’s blip, mobile ad monetization is on a better trajectory than before, how advertisers will deal with the SKAdNetwork, and what the future holds for contextual in-app advertising. https://bit.ly/2K254VT

Facebook attacks Apple software changes in newspaper ads. Facebook Inc. lashed out at Apple Inc. in a series of full-page newspaper ads, claiming the iPhone maker’s coming mobile software changes around data gathering and targeted advertising are bad for small businesses. The ads, which ran Wednesday in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, carried the headline “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.” They home in on upcoming changes to Apple’s iOS 14 operating system that will curb the ability of companies like Facebook to gather data about users and ply them with targeted advertising. https://bloom.bg/3mo4633

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Ant Group removes small banks’ online deposit products from its platform as it toes the line with China’s new fintech rules. Ant Group, China’s dominant online payments service provider, has removed the deposit-taking products of several banks from its financial platform, as it falls in line to comply with tightening regulations in the world’s largest fintech market. The company, based in the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou, removed interest-bearing time deposit products that mature in either three or five years offered by several small regional banks from its financial market place. The three-year deposit products on the platform pay a top rate of 4.125 per cent while the highest interest for five years is 4.875 per cent per annum, near the upper limit of the central bank’s guidelines and more generous than returns by China’s state-owned banks. By soliciting deposits on a nationwide platform used by up to 1 billion customers, those regional banks had been offering products with higher returns at lower entry thresholds than their larger rivals to customers, effectively skipping the geographical boundaries in China’s tightly regulated banking industry. http://bit.ly/34sFKPs

Robinhood pays US$65 million to settle SEC probe over misleading communications with customers. Robinhood agreed to pay US$65 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission that the discount brokerage misled customers on the quality of its trading service, the SEC said Thursday. The regulator accused Robinhood of making “misleading statements and omissions” about how it made money with high-speed trading companies. Like other brokerages, Robinhood sells its orders to trading firms for execution in a process known as “payment for order flow.” The SEC alleged that the brokerage routinely provided inferior trade prices, even as Robinhood marketed its trades as commission-free and executed with quality that matched or beat peers. The second-rate prices have cost clients a total of $34.1 million, even after accounting for the lack of commission fees, the SEC said. https://bit.ly/38hk2PL

Bitcoin should be worth US$400,000, based on its scarcity and value versus gold, according to Guggenheim’s Scott Minerd. Bitcoin should be worth US$400,000 based on its scarcity and value relative to gold, Guggenheim’s Scott Minerd told Bloomberg on Wednesday. The digital asset rose 6%, to around US$22,497, as of 8.22 a.m. GMT on Thursday, bringing its year-to-date return to just over 200%. Bitcoin rose above the US$20,000 level for the first time in history only a day ago, meaning that its price gained 12% in two days. The supply of bitcoin is limited to 21 million, giving it its anti-inflationary trademark. The token’s scarcity together with the Federal Reserve’s “rampant money printing” suggest its price should rise to US$400,000, Minerd told Bloomberg. “Our fundamental work shows that bitcoin should be worth about US$400,000,” he said on Bloomberg Television. “It’s based on the scarcity and relative valuation such as things like gold as a percentage of GDP.” Guggenheim is among the institutional players that are validating bitcoin’s legitimacy as a reserve asset. The firm last month filed to reserve the right for 10% of its US$5.3 billion Macro Opportunities Fund to invest in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, a bitcoin-focused investment vehicle. https://bit.ly/3arHDzV

Mark Cuban: Bitcoin is ‘more religion than solution’ and won’t help in ‘doomsday scenarios’. Although bitcoin has tripled in value this year, billionaire Mark Cuban remains cautious about the cryptocurrency, as he has been for years. “My thoughts haven’t changed,” Cuban told Forbes of the cryptocurrency on Dec. 8 — eight days before bitcoin hit a record high of $20,600 on Wednesday — for a story published Thursday. https://cnb.cx/3mvclup

The American heartland needs jobs. Could Bitcoin mining become its next savior? The recent resurgence in crypto mining feels like a good-news story. Mining companies like Core Scientific are in a position to make money and create jobs in rural areas, while also ensuring more Bitcoin—which is becoming a strategic asset—ends up in American hands. But there are also reasons for caution. The last crypto-mining boom promised similar benefits but resulted in fly-by-night companies leaving a trail of scams and environmental degradation in their wake. Will the outcome be any different this time? Meanwhile, other U.S. companies are finding creative ways to reduce Bitcoin’s environmental impact. Fabiano of Galaxy Digital pointed to three firms in the oil-and-gas field—Crusoe Energy, Great American Mining, and Upstream Data—that are capturing the energy typically wasted through flaring (when shale drilling rigs burn off excess natural gas) to power crypto mining. http://bit.ly/37yD9pd

Semiconductors

Microsoft designing its own chips for servers, Surface PCs. The world’s largest software maker is using Arm Ltd. designs to produce a processor that will be used in its data centers, according to people familiar with the plans. It’s also exploring using another chip that would power some of its Surface line of personal computers. The people asked not to be identified discussing private initiatives. Intel’s stock dropped 6.3% to close at US$47.46 in New York, leaving it down 21% this year. The move is a major commitment by Microsoft to supplying itself with the most important piece of the hardware it uses. Cloud-computing rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. are already well down the road with similar efforts. They’ve argued their chips are better suited to some of their needs, bringing cost and performance advantages over off-the-shelf silicon primarily provided by Intel. Microsoft has stepped up hiring of processor engineers in recent years, recruiting in the backyard of chipmakers such as Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Nvidia Corp. and among those cut adrift when Qualcomm Inc. abandoned its server chip efforts. http://bloom.bg/38j7Zl3

ESG

Tim Cook calls for ‘carbon-neutral economy’ in speech at UN Climate Ambition Summit. As expected, Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered a short speech at the United Nations 2020 Climate Ambition Summit on Saturday. During his speech, Cook addressed the need for countries to act to swiftly fight climate change. Cook pointed out during his speech that Apple’s goal to be 100% carbon neutral for its entire supply chain by 2030 is 20 years more aggressive than the goal set by the United Nations. In fact, Cook said that the Apple plan is “unrivaled in its ambition.” This is an important gathering, and we at Apple don’t take our presence in this group lightly. We wear it as a badge of duty. At this moment of historic urgency, every leader of nations, of companies, and of communities has a particular burden to act. This year, Apple has accelerated our progress. We became carbon neutral for our worldwide corporate emissions. Already, we’re helping 95 of our suppliers transition to 100% renewable energy, a number we continue to grow. http://bit.ly/3mj7Pij

Extending solar tax credits tentatively linked to Covid aid deal. U.S. congressional leaders have tentatively agreed to a package of tax incentives including extension of credits for wind and solar projects that would be incorporated into a must pass-government funding bill if a deal on Covid stimulus can be reached, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who asked not to be identified. https://bloom.bg/3ag9Nhb

BP boosts its bet on trees. BP PLC has bought a controlling stake in the largest U.S. producer of carbon offsets, doubling down on a bet that preserving forests will be key to companies meeting their carbon-reduction goals. The oil giant in late 2019 made a $5 million venture investment in Pennsylvania’s Finite Carbon, which helps landowners sell their forests as carbon sinks. With majority ownership of Finite, BP plans to take global the business of paying landowners not to cut down trees. https://on.wsj.com/34izkTa

Sophic Capital Client Insights

Luckbox (LUCK-TSXV, Sophic Client): esports audiences are surpassing those of traditional sports leagues, including NFL and MLB. esports betting could be a $12 to $15 billion business in 2020 and attracts a younger and growing demographic. Luckbox is a privately held esports betting firm about to go public (likely this week). We spoke with Luckbox CEO Quentin Martin to learn about the opportunity. http://bit.ly/2IWr7g4

Luckbox (LUCK-TSXV, Sophic Client): esports betting accelerated in 2020 as traditional sports leagues suspended matches but esports leagues continued. This is not a short-term blip. esports bettors are a young and growing demographic who have grown up with video games. Today’s fans will be tomorrow’s bettors whereas traditional sports bettors are an aging and shrinking market. Luckbox (which starts trading December 16, 2020 on the TSXV under “LUCK”) is how investors can participate in the global esports betting theme. http://bit.ly/3awCUNk

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