2021 is off to a busy start in Canadian capital markets, with regards to public equity offerings, private financings and M&A. Specifically, in the small-medium cap space, Emerge Commerce & Converge appear to be executing very rapidly on their M&A plan. We’re looking forward to additional details for mobile sports betting in New York, which bodes well for theScore and eventually Sophic Client, Luckbox. In the USA, we’re also excited to watch the potential public market debut of Roblox, Affirm, Bakkt and SoFi, among others.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Dye & Durham (DND-TSX) announces approximately $175 million secondary offering of common shares. The company entered into an agreement with an underwriting syndicate led by Canaccord Genuity Corp. (collectively, the “Underwriters”) in respect of a secondary offering on a bought deal basis of an aggregate of 4,107,000 common shares of the Company (the “Shares”) by Plantro Ltd. (“Plantro”), The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, Seastone Invest Limited, and certain insiders of the Company (collectively, the “Selling Shareholders”) at a price of $42.75 per Share (the “Offering”). The Company will not receive any proceeds from the Offering. http://bit.ly/3bl2Zzj

Converge Technology Solutions Corp. (CTS-TSXV) announces upsize to previously announced bought deal financing. The company entered into an amended agreement with a syndicate of underwriters led by Canaccord Genuity Corp. and Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. (the “Underwriters”), to increase the size of its previously announced offering of common shares. Under the amended terms, the Underwriters have agreed to purchase, on a bought deal basis, 15.5 million common shares of the Company (“Offered Shares”) at a price of $4.85 per Offered Share (the “Issue Price”) for gross proceeds to the Company of $75.2 million (the “Offering”). https://bit.ly/3q1Uw8f
& http://bit.ly/3hXViRa

MCI Onehealth closes $30 million initial public offering. MCI Onehealth, a Toronto-based healthtech company, has closed $30 million for its initial public offering (IPO). The company’s shares began trading Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. MCI Onehealth is one of several Canadian healthtech companies to raise funding over the last year. MCI Onehealth owns 25 medical clinics in Ontario and Alberta and claims to serve more than 850,000 patients annually. The company is working on several software products, including an artificial intelligence-enabled technology aimed to increase the rate of detection for chronic disease and improve overall clinical standards. The IPO consists of six million Class A Subordinate Voting Shares at a price of $5 per offered share. Underwriters on the offering included Canaccord Genuity Corp, which acted as lead underwriter, as well as Echelon Wealth Partners Stifel Nicolaus Canada, TD Securities, Eight Capital, Haywood Securities, and Clarus Securities. The company initially filed its preliminary prospectus in mid-December. According to that prospectus, MCI Onehealth’s revenue declined 20 percent in the first nine months of last year, as the number of walk-in clinic visits dropped significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MCI Onehealth now also offers virtual care consultations. http://bit.ly/2Lj8lQX

BIGG Digital Assets Inc. (BIGG-CSE) announces upsize of previously announced bought deal financing to $12 million. The company announced that, due to strong investor demand, it has increased its previously announced bought deal financing to 24,000,000 units of the Company (“Units”) at a price of $0.50 per Unit for gross proceeds of $12,000,000 (the “Offering”). The Offering is being conducted by a syndicate of underwriters led by PI Financial Corp. (the “Lead Underwriter”) and including Canaccord Genuity Corp., and Echelon Wealth Partners (collectively with the Lead Underwriter, the “Underwriters”). The Units will be offered by way of short form prospectus in each of the provinces of Canada (other than Quebec). http://bit.ly/3sdDFl4

Boardwalktech (BWLK-TSXV) announces private placement led by Echelon Wealth Partners. The Offering will consist up to 7,143,000 units of the Company (each, a “Unit”, and collectively the “Units”) at a price of C$0.70 per Unit (the “Offering Price”). Each Unit consists of one Common Share (each, a “Common Share”, and collectively the “Common Shares”) and one-half of one Common Share purchase warrant (each whole warrant, a “Warrant” and collectively the “Warrants”). Each Warrant entitles the holder thereof to acquire one Common Share at a price of C$0.90 per Common Share for a period of 24 months from the closing date of the Offering. http://bit.ly/3ouYi9M

PopReach (POPR-TSXV) files preliminary base shelf prospectus. Upon a final short form base shelf prospectus (the “Shelf Prospectus”) becoming effective, these filings will, subject to securities regulatory requirements, allow the Company to issue common shares, preferred shares, units, debt securities, subscription receipts and warrants (the “Securities”) in amounts, at prices and on terms based on market conditions at the time of sale and set forth in an accompanying Shelf Prospectus supplement (“Prospectus Supplement”), for an aggregate offering amount of up to $150,000,000 during the 25 month period that the Shelf Prospectus is effective. http://bit.ly/3nulNyK

PointClickCare reportedly valued at US$4 billion following new minority investment. Toronto-based PointClickCare has raised a strategic minority investment from Hellman & Friedman and existing investor Dragoneer Investment Group. The news comes nearly one month after PointClickCare completed its largest acquisition to date. Sources speaking with The Globe and Mail indicated that JMI Equity, some unnamed individual investors, and PointClickCare employees sold between US$600 million and US$800 million of stock as part of the transaction. The Globe noted the deal valued the startup at a reported US$4 billion. http://bit.ly/3bnJg27

Converge Technology Solutions Corp. (CTS-TSXV) acquires Vicom Computer Services, Inc. Vicom had trailing twelve month revenue and adjusted EBITDA of approximately $128 million and $6.6 million, respectively, for the period ending November 30, 2020. Consideration for the acquisition consisted of US$25 million in cash (approximately $32 million) after adjusting for excess working capital, representing a purchase multiple of approximately 4.85 times LTM adjusted EBITDA. Vicom is the seventeenth acquisition announced by Converge since October 2017. http://bit.ly/38dJrei

EMERGE (ECOM-TSXV) acquires truLOCAL, the market leader in direct-to-consumer, meat subscriptions for up to $16.8 million. truLOCAL is EMERGE’s 5th acquisition, largest deal to date, and is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings. truLOCAL generated revenue of approximately $19.8 million (unaudited) in the twelve months ended December 31, 2020, representing over 130% growth year-over-year. Acquisition provides EMERGE with its first monthly recurring subscription offering, premium customer base and highly strategic food technology platform. The Transaction was funded with cash on hand and drawdown of remaining $3.0 million available from EMERGE’s debt facility. truLOCAL was recently ranked as Canada’s 14th fastest growing Company for 2017-2019 in Canada by the Globe and Mail (2020). http://bit.ly/3pS3tRH

Nintendo buys Canadian game studio in rare acquisition. While gaming giants Sony and Microsoft have made M&A a critical part of their strategic growth plans, Nintendo has always seemed to be more reluctant to bring outside talent into the fold of its video game empire. The company announced that it will be acquiring the developer behind Luigi’s Mansion 3, Canada-based Next Level Games. Nintendo’s announcement is the first studio acquisition for the company since their 2007 purchase of Xenoblade Chronicles developer Monolith Soft. Next Level Games has been working on Nintendo-licensed IP exclusively for the better part of the last decade, crafting a number of titles across some of the company’s second tier of intellectual property including the Super Mario Strikers series as well as mobile iterations of Metroid Prime and Luigi’s Mansion. In a recent earnings report, Nintendo shared that Luigi’s Mansion 3 had sold nearly 8 million copies, earning it a spot as one of the system’s top-selling titles. http://tcrn.ch/3hSmHDN

One of the biggest startups from Toronto might be selling for more than US$500 million. As reported by the Globe and Mail, Wattpad is currently in talks with bidders for a potential sale of its successful enterprise. If confirmed, the company could see new ownership as early as sometime this month. Wattpad, a wildly popular online platform for amateur and established writers, has not confirmed any potential sale. Today the site boasts an audience of more than 90 million users. http://bit.ly/2MQ4Vpz

(SCR-TSX): Sports betting firm in Canada braces for fight with DraftKings. With single-game sports betting about to go legit in Canada, the troika of DraftKings Inc., FanDuel Inc. and William Hill Plc that dominates the U.S. betting business is preparing to pounce. But an entrepreneurial father-son team has something their would-be rivals don’t: a legion of fans that have made their mobile app, theScore, among the most popular sports apps in North America. Shares of Toronto-based Score Media and Gaming Inc. surged after Canada unveiled legislation in November to legalize single-event sports betting, following in the footsteps of multiple U.S. states. The stock ended last year up 111% and jumped another 17% in the first three trading days of 2021. Now, Chief Executive Officer John Levy and his son, Chief Operating Officer Benjie Levy, are making plans to replicate their sports betting service — theScore Bet, already active in Colorado, Indiana and New Jersey — in their home country. TheScore is among the most actively used free sports apps in Canada, ranking No. 1 in the Google Play store as of Wednesday, according to traffic-tracking firm SimilarWeb. The company says it has about four million daily active users, with more than 1.4 million in Ontario alone. Sports betting is now legal in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, with 14 of those accounting for $13 billion in 2019 wagers, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. In Canada, aside from horse racing in some provinces, legal betting is limited to parlay wagers through provincial platforms. So Canadian bettors spend an estimated C$10 billion ($7.7 billion) per year on single-event betting through illegal bookies and a further C$4 billion on international betting websites, according to Justice Minister David Lametti. Canadian officials are attracted to sports wagering as an untapped source of tax revenue. In the U.S., online gaming the sports gambling generated almost $160 million in tax revenue in 2019, according to the American Gaming Association. “Assuming full legalization in Canada, we think this could be a $4 billion revenue opportunity,” Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a Nov. 30 note about DraftKings Inc., referring to industry revenue. The legalization bill has yet to pass in Canada’s parliament, which is slated to resume later this month. It requires two more “readings” before moving on to the Senate. http://bloom.bg/3bqwLTA

Hootsuite expanding into customer service, acquires Sparkcentral. Vancouver-based Hootsuite has acquired Sparkcentral, a Belgium and New York-based startup offering customer service software. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Sparkcentral’s product is an automated message distribution platform that gives customer service teams the ability to triage and respond to customer inquiries through social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat, and SMS. Sparkcentral’s names among its customers airlines such as Air Canada and JetBlue, as well as companies like Slack, Axa, and Careem, all of which are now a part of Hootsuite’s portfolio. This expansion represents a new use case for the social media management company. However, this expansion follows several tumultuous years for Hootsuite. In 2018, Hootsuite began exploring selling the company after CB Insights pegged Hootsuite’s valuation at US$1 billion. In early 2019, the sale was halted after initial offers for the company were lower than expected, according to reports from The Globe and Mail. Four months after the sale was halted, it was revealed that Hootsuite had laid off 100 employees, or 10 percent of its workforce. Those staffing reductions followed reports the company’s marketing and sales teams failed to meet certain targets. http://bit.ly/2LDejfC

Luckbox (Sophic Client, LUCK-TSXV) hires Ran Kaspi as Chief Financial Officer. Esports betting company Luckbox has appointed former 888.com Economic & Performance Team Leader Ran Kaspi as its new Chief Financial Officer. Kaspi also brings with him six years of experience following his tenure at 888.com, including having previously served as the CFO of ASX-listed ParaZero LTD, who develop drone safety solutions. Ran Kaspi, new Chief Financial Officer of Luckbox commented: “I’m very happy to join the team at what is a hugely exciting time for the business and esports industry as a whole. “A few years ago, I had the chance to provide CFO services to a startup within the esports domain and I was given a shot to learn about the great potential of this industry. When the opportunity came, I thought that Luckbox has the potential to become a fantastic growth story in the future and its background, coupled with the public listing, were very appealing.” Luckbox’s parent company Real Luck Group Ltd last month debuted on the TSX Venture Exchange in Toronto under ticker LUCK and has enjoyed an encouraging start to public life, with share prices up 75%. http://bit.ly/3q6itLG

A Canadian ‘buy local’ effort fights Amazon on its own turf. What began as a Google spreadsheet with more than 160 businesses collated initially from Ms. Haberstroh’s memory and research became a directory of hundreds that have a website and a high-quality photo and offer nationwide shipping, curbside pickup or delivery. So far, the website has garnered more than half a million page views and grown to include 4,000 businesses across Toronto, Calgary, Halifax and Vancouver. The site is now submission-based, and thousands of businesses are awaiting Ms. Haberstroh’s approval. Small and medium-size businesses contribute more than 50 percent to Canada’s gross domestic product. But since the pandemic lockdowns, 40 percent of small businesses have reported layoffs while 20 percent have deferred rent payments, according to government data. While there have been some shifts in consumer behavior, Daniel Kelly, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, estimated that one in seven Canadian businesses, or 225,000, will close because of the pandemic. http://nyti.ms/3hSyK4a

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

Robinhood weighs selling its shares to clients in IPO. The Menlo Park, California-based company has weighed allocating a significant minority of the shares it will list to clients, said one of the people, who asked to not be identified because the details aren’t public. No final decision has been made on how much stock it might sell to its own customers, or if it will proceed with the plan, the people said. The move would be striking, because retail investors usually don’t get to buy into new listings at the offering price. Instead, they typically have to invest on the first day of trading in a rush that can drive up the stock price. Unprecedented demand for new technology listings sent DoorDash Inc. and Airbnb Inc. soaring when they debuted last month, raising questions about whether the market has become overheated. Robinhood is aiming to go public as soon as this quarter, Bloomberg News reported in November, after trading volumes on its platform surged during the coronavirus pandemic. The company, which was valued at US$11.7 billion in a September funding round, has more than 13 million accounts on its platform, which offers equities and options trading. Its rapid growth has come with controversy, including a hacking spree that compromised almost 2,000 accounts and flood of complaints to U.S. protection agencies depicting inexperienced investors losing money. http://bloom.bg/3os47op

SoFi to go public via SPAC backed by billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya. SoFi is going public via a merger with a SPAC backed by billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya. Palihapitiya made the announcement on CNBC on Thursday, and Reuters first reported talks of the deal this morning, citing sources familiar with the matter. SoFi will utilize Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp V to go public. Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp V traded up as much as 50% in Thursday trades. The deal will value SoFi at nearly US$9 billion and provide up to US$2.4 billion in proceeds to the company. SoFi last raised US$500 million in 2019 at a valuation of US$4.3 billion. SoFi was founded in 2011 and offers a mobile first personal finance service that includes student loan refinancing, investment services, credit cards and insurance. http://bit.ly/3q1RKA3

Affirm targets up to US$38 per share in IPO, pushing its valuation above US$9 billion. Affirm, a fintech startup that offers payment options to e-commerce customers, released a new S-1/A filing. The new document follows a late-December filing of a similar nature, though that update focused on changing the language of Affirm’s reported results, tweaking its language to remove some adjusted metrics and hewing closer to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. http://tcrn.ch/35bGN71

Crypto exchange Bakkt nears merger with Victory Park SPAC. Bakkt, the cryptocurrency platform majority owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc., is in advanced talks to go public through a merger with blank-check firm VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The transaction is set to value the combined entity at more than UJS$2 billion, and an announcement may come as soon as next week, said the people. Representatives for Bakkt, ICE and VPC declined to comment. VPC’s common shares rose 51% at 10:22 a.m. Friday in New York while its warrants jumped 290%. Last year, Bakkt raised US$300 million in capital from ICE and other investors, and acquired Bridge2 Solutions, a provider to loyalty programs. The company in 2019 launched a fully-regulated Bitcoin futures and option market. http://bloom.bg/3sdbQcg

Roblox to go public via direct listing, not IPO. Roblox, a gaming and game creation platform, announced Wednesday evening that it plans to file paperwork with the SEC for a direct listing, and that it just raised US$520 million in a Series H funding round led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group. Its latest valuation is US$29.5 billion, a sharp premium to its US$4 billion private market valuation in February 2020. Roblox had filed publicly for an initial public offering in November but appeared to delay its plans last month. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time it did so after the IPOs of Airbnb and DoorDash saw their stocks soar, which fueled criticism that IPOs can shortchange companies. Direct listings were introduced as a response to that criticism. In a direct listing, a company lists its existing shares directly on the stock market, without raising new funds. Roblox reported in a securities filing that it generated US$488 million in revenue in 2019, up 56% from the prior year. http://bit.ly/2LC0uOb

Mobile games developer Playtika to raise up to US$1.7 billion in planned IPO. Mobile games developer Playtika set terms for its initial public offering on Thursday, with plans to offer 69.5 million shares priced at US$22 to US$24 each. The company would raise US$1.7 billion at the top of that range. There are 10 banks underwriting the deal, led by Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. The company has applied to list on Nasdaq, under the ticker “PLTK.” Proceeds of the deal will be used for general corporate purposes, including working capital and for possible repayment of debt. http://on.mktw.net/39afVW6

Elon Musk told his followers to ‘use Signal,’ leading to 1,100% surge in unrelated stock with similar name. When Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged his Twitter followers on Thursday to “use Signal,” he meant the encrypted messaging app. Some people appear to have taken it the wrong way. Shares of an obscure and unrelated company called Signal Advance, which trades over the counter, surged 527% on Thursday and another 91% on Friday, climbing from 60 cents to US$7.19. The Signal that Musk was referring to is operated by a nonprofit and serves as an alternative to texting apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Apple’s messaging service. That Signal took to Twitter on Friday to clarify that it has nothing to do with Signal Advance. http://cnb.cx/3nshSCl

Gojek in talks With Tokopedia for US$18 billion merger, sources say. The merged entity would create an Indonesian powerhouse with a valuation of about US$18 billion, with Gojek and Tokopedia pegged at around US$10.5 billion and US$7.5 billion respectively in the talks, according to the people involved. Their businesses range from ride-hailing and payments to online shopping and delivery — a local mashup of Uber Technologies Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and DoorDash Inc. It plans to go public in the U.S. and Indonesia. Gojek and Tokopedia have considered a potential merger since 2018, but discussions accelerated after deal talks between Gojek and arch-rival Grab Holdings Inc. reached an impasse, the people said. Grab Chief Executive Officer Anthony Tan continues to resist pressure from SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son to give up some control in a combined entity with Gojek, said the people. The firms are currently discussing merger ratios that would give each side substantial equity ownership, the people said. Founders of the two companies have been friends since their inception more than 10 years ago and anticipate an amicable alliance. Grab and Gojek discussions were more contentious and had not progressed enough for them to sign a term sheet, the people said. A combined Gojek and Tokopedia would dominate in Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest-growing internet economies. Their planned U.S.-listing would provide global investors an alternative to Sea Ltd., the only major Southeast Asian internet company listed in the U.S. Sea’s shares climbed almost 400% last year, boosted by the growing popularity of its mobile gaming and online shopping platform. http://bloom.bg/2MsTaoy

Roku acquires Quibi library. Roku has acquired Quibi’s library of shows and movies to put on its ad-supported Roku Channel. The acquisition by the streaming device maker is designed to help it boost revenue from the Roku Channel by adding original programming and help it compete in the increasingly crowded streaming marketplace. Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi shut down late last year after just a few months because it failed to gain traction. Katzenberg blamed the failure of the service, which featured short “quick bites” of content for people to watch on the mobile devices, on the coronavirus pandemic since people were not out and about. It will be interesting to see if the programming gets more viewers on Roku than it did on Quibi. http://bit.ly/3hVUMDd

Ladbrokes owner Entain receives offer from MGM Resorts. US casino giant MGM Resorts has made an US$11 billion (£8.1 billion) offer for British gaming company Entain, which owns Ladbrokes. The move is the latest attempt by a casino operator to move into the online gambling business. In addition to its chain of High Street betting shops, UK-based Entain also owns a number of online sports betting and gambling sites. Entain confirmed the offer, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, but said the price was too low. It had recently rebuffed an earlier US$10 billion (£7.3 billion) all-cash approach from MGM, the newspaper said. In a statement, Entain said the latest bid approach “significantly undervalues the company and its prospects”. MGM Resorts, which runs the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, now has until the beginning of next month to decide whether to make a formal bid or to walk away. http://bbc.in/3q6mL5L

Ladbrokes Coral owner agrees £250m deal for Swedish gaming group. Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes Coral bookmakers, has agreed a £250m deal to buy Swedish online sports betting and gaming company Enlabs amid a rush of consolidation across the gambling sector. The group, which also operates the Partypoker and Bwin brands, said yesterday that it had made an all-cash offer of SKr40 per Enlabs share, valuing the Riga-based company at about £250m — a 15.6 per cent premium compared with the volume weighted average price of Enlabs stock over the past 90 days. https://on.ft.com/3s8Maxt

Nvidia deal for Arm to face investigation by UK’s competition authority. The Competition and Market Authority in the United Kingdom said Wednesday that it plans to investigate Nvidia Corp.’s planned deal for Arm Ltd. “The CMA is likely to consider whether, following the takeover, Arm has an incentive to withdraw, raise prices or reduce the quality of its IP licensing services to NVIDIA’s rivals,” the CMA said in a release. CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said in the release that the investigation will look to ensure that Nvidia’s deal for Arm “doesn’t ultimately result in consumers facing more expensive or lower quality products.” A formal investigation starts later this year. Nvidia announced in September that it planned to purchase Arm from Softbank Group Corp. in a deal valued at US$40 billion in cash and stock. Nvidia shares have lost 4% over the past three months as the S&P 500 has added 10.5%. https://on.mktw.net/3bsoZsl

Haven, the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture to disrupt health care, is disbanding after 3 years. Haven, the joint venture formed by three of America’s most powerful companies to lower costs and improve outcomes in health care, is disbanding after three years, CNBC has learned exclusively. The company began informing employees Monday that it will shut down by the end of next month, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The announcement three years ago that the CEOs of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase had teamed up to tackle one of the biggest problems facing corporate America – high and rising costs for employee health care  – sent shock waves throughout the world of medicine. The move to shutter Haven may be a sign of how difficult it is to radically improve American health care, a complicated and entrenched system of doctors, insurers, drugmakers and middlemen that costs the country US$3.5 trillion every year. http://cnb.cx/3hLC29a

Google workers form union to drive changes within company. Workers at Alphabet Inc. said Monday that a group of employees had formed a union focused on driving changes to the company’s structure. Software engineers Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that they are among more than 200 U.S. workers at Alphabet who’ve created the Alphabet Workers Union, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America. Koul and Shaw, who were elected the union’s executive chair and vice chair, respectively, said that the union will be open to Alphabet workers “regardless of classification” given a high proportion of temporary workers, vendors, and contractors at Google. “Alphabet continues to crack down on those who dare to speak out, and keep workers from speaking on sensitive and publicly important topics, like antitrust and monopoly power,” they said in their opinion piece. http://on.mktw.net/2Lo0e5z

More evidence of better-than-expected iPhone 12 demand as Foxconn beats revenue expectations. A report last month suggested that Apple was taken by surprise by better-than-expected iPhone 12 demand, boosting 2021 production plans by between 20% and 30% – and supporting evidence continues to accumulate. Counterpoint found that the iPhone 12 was the world’s best-selling 5G phone, Qualcomm’s dramatic boost in Q3 2020 revenue was largely credited to the new iPhone lineup, and other supply-chain sources pointed to reality matching the supercycle hype. Today, record revenues for primary iPhone supplier Foxconn adds to the weight of evidence. Bloomberg reports that Foxconn – formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co – also beat analyst expectations. Main iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue thanks to robust demand for Apple Inc.’s new 5G devices. http://bit.ly/3pQYhgW

5G phone market to reach half a billion devices this year, says Apple supplier. Murata Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest maker of ceramic capacitors for Apple Inc. and other smartphone brands, expects demand for fifth-generation wireless devices to surpass 500 million handsets in the coming fiscal year, building on a rush to replace Huawei Technologies Co. http://bit.ly/2XlkDe8

Emerging Technologies

Hyundai Motor says it’s in early talks with Apple to develop a car, sends shares soaring 19%. Shares of Hyundai Motor surged 19% after the South Korean automaker said it was in early-stage talks with Apple over potentially working together to develop an electric car. “We understand that Apple is in discussion with a variety of global automakers, including Hyundai Motor. As the discussion is at its early stage, nothing has been decided,” a representative from Hyundai Motor told CNBC’s Chery Kang. The statement followed a local report from the Korea Economic Daily that said Apple suggested the tie-up and Hyundai Motor was reviewing the terms. The report said both electric vehicle production as well as battery development were included in the proposal, and that the car could potentially be released in 2027. Hyundai later released an updated statement that avoided the mention of Apple and said, “We’ve been receiving requests of potential cooperation from diverse companies regarding development of autonomous driving EVs, but no decisions have been made as discussions are in early stage.” http://cnb.cx/2LwSA8W

Facebook Smart Glasses coming ‘sooner than later’ without AR. Facebook Inc.’s planned smart glasses will arrive “sooner than later” in 2021, but won’t feature the kind of digital overlay technology that is associated with augmented reality, according to hardware chief Andrew Bosworth. The glasses, which are being built in partnership with Ray-Ban and parent Luxottica Group SpA, will connect to a device — though users won’t be able to overlay digital objects onto their real-world view, a foundational element of AR. “These are certainly connected glasses, they are certainly providing a lot of functionality, [but] we’re being quite coy about which functionality precisely we are providing,” Bosworth said. “We’re excited about it but we don’t want to over-hype it. We’re not even calling it augmented reality, we’re just calling it ‘smart glasses,’” he added. Facebook first announced plans for AR glasses in 2017 and has since built a handful of camera features that allow people to project digital images onto the physical world, like face-distorting photo filters. The company has invested substantial resources into hardware development in recent years, acquiring virtual-reality startup Oculus and launching an in-home video device called Portal. Facebook’s VR, AR and hardware teams account for more than 6,000 employees, according to a person familiar with its staffing. That’s a larger group than Facebook has working on billion-user apps Instagram and WhatsApp. http://bloom.bg/3nk5nsG

Amazon is quietly building a new Alexa device to help you sleep better. Amazon is working on a new Alexa-powered device that can track and detect sleep apnea, Business Insider has learned. The palm-sized device is designed to sit on a nightstand and use contactless technology to monitor the sleeping disorder, people familiar with the matter said. It will primarily use millimeter-wave radar to track sleeping and breathing patterns of individual users and detect subtleties in their movements that could come from stoppages of breathing associated with sleep apnea, these people said. http://bit.ly/3rZuBQm

Amazon is now selling an FDA-approved at-home saliva COVID-19 test for US$110. All you do is spit in a tube and send it to an LA lab via pre-paid shipping. Amazon is now selling a US$110 at-home COVID-19 test that has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). DxTerity, a genomics company based in Los Angeles, said in a statement Tuesday that its kit is the first at-home saliva test to get emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for symptomatic and asymptomatic testing. The test kit was authorized by the FDA on December 9, but was made available on Amazon on Tuesday. The DxTerity COVID-19 Saliva at-Home Collection Kit is priced on Amazon at US$110 for one, or US$1,000 for 10. Many coronavirus tests require a nasal and throat swab. DxTerity’s test requires you to spit into the empty tube provided, and then send it off to a Los Angeles-based lab via prepaid shipping. Patients should expect to get their results between 24 and 72 hours after the sample has arrived at the lab, the website says. http://bit.ly/3qfmGNt

Adobe Flash Player is finally laid to rest. Adobe Flash Player, the browser plug-in that brought rich animations and interactivity to the early web, has officially reached the end of its life. Released in 1996, Flash was once one of the most popular ways for people to stream videos and play games online. But it was plagued with security problems and failed to transition to the smartphone era. https://bbc.in/3hLtgYL

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

More than half of Americans turned to video games during lockdown. With 2020 consumed almost entirely by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of US residents turned to video games to fill the time. According to Nielsen company SuperData’s 2020 year in review, 55 percent of people picked up video games — out of boredom, to escape the real world, to socialize — during the first phase of lockdowns. The shift points to a larger one in entertainment. Movie theaters, sports, plays, and more have been largely inaccessible, if not outright dangerous to public health. Just as streaming, both of the Twitch and Netflix variety, became a huge source of entertainment, so did games — especially for adults. According to SuperData, 66 percent of consumers from 18 to 24 played more console games, while 60 percent played more mobile titles. Unsurprisingly, buyers also tended toward digital purchases. SuperData reports that 27 percent of people — about 1 in 4 — played games to stay in touch with each other. In 2020, games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Among Us became cultural touchstones. Animal Crossing was the hit of the early pandemic, while Among Us had nearly half a billion players in November alone. SuperData estimates that digital games alone garnered US$126.6 billion over the course of the year. The numbers may not spike this year as much as they did in 2020, but SuperData predicts “the long-term habits formed during lockdown are here to stay.” http://bit.ly/3hXLeqZ

Sports betting: Gov. Andrew Cuomo fully on board, will address next week. Well, it finally happened. Pressure of neighboring New Jersey turning into the new sports gambling capitol of the nation combined with budgetary issues from COVID-19 have led to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finally embracing mobile sports betting in the Big Apple. The details are not yet clear, but Cuomo acknowledged he would finally address the fact that New York had not embraced mobile sports betting. A statement from Cuomo was published in the New York Daily News early Wednesday morning. https://bit.ly/3pRtGzG

DraftKings announces it will now allow betting on drone races in some states. Sports betting company DraftKings and the Drone Racing League (DRL) will now allow betting on drone races in some states, the two companies announced. DRL, which CNBC describes as a first-person view racing league, allows pilots to compete for prizes by flying their drones through courses. Residents of Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and West Virginia will be able to bet on the races via their phones, and regulatory approval is pending for betting on drone races in other states, the companies said. The terms of the deal and the amounts of the prize money weren’t disclosed, but drone racers in a 2017 tournament competed for US$100,000. DraftKings first introduced DRL drone races last year as a kind of test run, and says response was better than expected. According to Forbes, the first free-to-play pool in November drew more than 150,000 entrants. DRL was established in 2015. http://bit.ly/3seVCzI

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Trump bars U.S. transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alipay. U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Ant Group’s Alipay mobile payment app, the White House said, escalating tensions with Beijing two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. It tasks the Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive within 45 days and targets Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay as well. The order also names CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate which is published by Alibaba Group subsidiary UCWeb, and Beijing Kingsoft Office Software’s WPS Office. http://reut.rs/2MI9SAC

App makers explore desperate measures to dodge Apple privacy rules. App developers are exploring surreptitious new forms of user tracking to evade Apple’s new privacy rules, which threaten to upend the mobile advertising industry in the coming months.  Early in 2021, an iPhone update will prevent apps from using advertising identifiers known as IDFA without obtaining each user’s explicit consent for targeting. Developers expect more than two-thirds of users will block tracking when they see a pop-up appear within their apps. https://on.ft.com/2Xhpa1i


Amazon makes first aircraft purchase to expand cargo network. Amazon.com Inc. is buying 11 used Boeing 767-300 planes, the first time the online retail giant has purchased, rather than leased, aircraft for its fast-growing air cargo operation. The company on Tuesday said it was buying seven aircraft from Delta Air Lines Inc. and four from WestJet Airlines Ltd. The WestJet aircraft are currently being converted from passenger to cargo use and will join Amazon’s fleet this year. The Delta jets will start flying routes in 2022. By the end of next year, Amazon expects to have more than 85 planes in service, a spokesperson said. https://bloom.bg/2KXfM0i

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Square’s crypto business could generate US$1 billion in profit if bitcoin soars to US$100,000, Wall Street analyst says. The record surge in the price of bitcoin is “a boon” for Square’s revenue and gross profits as it leads to increased user engagement among its Cash App users that buy and sell the cryptocurrency, Mizuho Securities said in a note on Thursday. If bitcoin manages to jump to the US$100,000 level by the end of 2021, Square’s gross profit tied to the Cash App’s crypto unit “could drive a 9x increase in Bitcoin GP [gross profit] to slightly over US$1 billion,” the note said. Square generated an estimated US$110 million in gross profits tied to its bitcoin business last year, according to Mizuho. But if the price of bitcoin starts to trend lower, Square is still set to benefit from an increase in profits tied to the trading of bitcoin within the Cash App, Mizuho said, pointing to past instances as precedent. From the third quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, the average price of bitcoin fell from US$10,400 to US$8,300, but overall gross profits for Square’s crypto unit tripled from US$2.1 million to US$6.7 million, Mizuho said. https://bit.ly/3hWSxiO

Veteran investor Bill Miller flips Warren Buffett’s Bitcoin snub to argue crypto beats cash. Veteran investor Bill Miller trumpeted Bitcoin’s rich prospects in a blog post this week, repurposing Warren Buffett’s dismissal of the cryptocurrency as “rat poison” to underscore his own faith in it. The Miller Value Partners boss and former Legg Mason investment chief pointed out that Bitcoin has outperformed all major asset classes in recent years. The digital coin currently boasts a bigger market capitalization than Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, even though it’s yet to be widely adopted, he continued. Miller added that the Federal Reserve is threatening to erode the dollar’s value with rock-bottom interest rates and continued liquidity injections into the US economy. The pressure on the greenback has spurred the likes of Square and MicroStrategy to shift some of their cash into Bitcoin to lessen the impact of depreciation, he said. “Warren Buffett famously called bitcoin ‘rat poison,'” Miller said. “He may well be right. Bitcoin could be rat poison, and the rat could be cash.” https://bit.ly/3pW3Dr2

JPMorgan says bitcoin could rally as high as $100,000 – but warns that such a surge would be ‘unsustainable’. Bitcoin’s 300% surge in 2020 could repeat this year, but such a move higher would be unsustainable, JPMorgan said in a note on Monday. “While we cannot exclude the possibility that the current speculative mania will propagate further, pushing the bitcoin price up towards the consensus region of between US$50k – US$100k, we believe that such price levels would prove unsustainable,” the note said. Bitcoin surged to nearly US$35,000 on Sunday before plunging as much as 17% on Monday, its steepest drop since March. With a market value of US$575 billion, bitcoin would have to surge to US$146,000 to match the total private-sector investment in gold via exchange-traded funds or bars and coins, the note said. But that long-term upside target based on bitcoin becoming as valuable as the gold market is predicated on institutions becoming comfortable with the volatility associated with the crypto asset as it occupies a place in their portfolios. For risk-management purposes, a less volatile bitcoin would likely lead to increased adoption among institutions. “It is thus unrealistic to expect that the allocations to bitcoin by institutional investors will match those of gold without a convergence in volatilities. A convergence in volatilities between bitcoin and gold is unlikely to happen quickly and is in our mind a multi-year process,” JPMorgan said. http://bit.ly/2JKZaYQ

Jack Dorsey slammed proposed US cryptocurrency laws as ‘nonsensical’ — 3 months after his company bought US$50 million in Bitcoin. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has come out swinging against a recent attempt by the US government to regulate cryptocurrency. In a 4,600-word open letter published Monday, Dorsey criticized new proposed regulation from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The proposed new law would require companies to collect the names and addresses of people if they make cryptocurrency transactions over US$3,000, the idea being this would help law enforcement in tracking down any illicit transactions being conducted. Dorsey, writing in his capacity as CEO at payments company Square, said the proposed rules would make law enforcement harder as well as resulting in privacy violations. Dorsey also said the regulation unfairly targets cryptocurrency compared to traditional payment methods. Dorsey argued the regulation would end up hindering, rather than helping, law enforcement because users would simply turn to offshore and possibly unregulated channels to escape it. Square bought up US$50 million in Bitcoin in October last year. The popular cryptocurrency’s worth soared by 305% in 2020 and hit a record high of US$34,792.47 this Sunday, although it fell 17% on Monday — its biggest single-day decline since March. http://bit.ly/35frKcy

Gamblers could use bitcoin at slot machines with new patent. International Game Technology Plc, the world’s largest maker of slot machines, may be looking at offering cryptocurrency as a payment option on casino games like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune. On Tuesday, the company received a patent for a way to transfer cryptocurrency between a player’s gaming-establishment account and an external cryptocurrency account. That means players could move Bitcoin into their virtual wallets on a slot machine using their phones. https://bloom.bg/2JVgnz2


Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz triples its electric car sales as CEO predicts a ‘transformative’ decade. The CEO of Daimler emphasized the importance of low-emission technologies and innovation on Friday, telling CNBC that the automotive industry was “in the middle of a transformation.” “Next to the things that we know well — to build, frankly, the world’s most desirable cars — there are two technological trends that we’re doubling down on: electrification and digitization,” Ola Källenius told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach. Källenius’ comments came on the same day Daimler announced its Mercedes-Benz Cars division had sold over 160,000 plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles in 2020, a tripling compared to the previous year. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, the German automotive giant said approximately 87,000 xEVs — a term which refers to both plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles — were sold. Daimler added that the share of xEVs at Mercedes-Benz Cars hit 7.4% in 2020, up from just 2% in 2019. Looking ahead, it’s forecasting that the share of xEVs at Mercedes-Benz Cars will grow to roughly 13% this year, with several new models set to be rolled out in 2021. Last month the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, presented its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. Among other things, it aims to have at least 30 million zero-emission cars on the road by the year 2030. Drivers’ habits do seem to be changing. In the U.K. — which recently announced plans to stop selling new diesel and gasoline-powered cars and vans by 2030 — road users’ demand for battery electric vehicles rose by 185.9% in 2020, with 108,205 new registrations, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles hit 66,877 last year, an increase of 91.2%, the SMMT’s figures show. The industry body said that combined, battery and plug-in hybrid electric cars “accounted for more than one in 10 registrations — up from around one in 30 in 2019.” Daimler is one of many big automotive firms looking to make big plays in the electric vehicle sector and challenge Elon Musk’s Tesla. The Volkswagen Group, for instance, is investing 35 billion euros (around $42.86 billion) in electric vehicles and says it wants to roll out roughly 70 all-electric models by 2030. http://cnb.cx/35t9ZX4

Looking to decarbonize the metal industry, Bill Gates-backed Boston Metal raises US$50 million. Steel production accounts for roughly 8% of the emissions that contribute to global climate change. It is one of the industries that sits at the foundation of the modern economy and is one of the most resistant to decarbonization. One startup that’s developing a new technology to address the issue is Boston Metal. Previously backed by the Bill Gates-financed Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, the new company has just raised roughly US$50 million of an approximately US$60 million financing round to expand its operations, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The global steel industry may find approximately 14% of its potential value at risk if the business can’t reduce its environmental impact, according to studies cited by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. http://tcrn.ch/3pPt7Xa

The 10 ways renewable energy’s boom year will shape 2021. Even after Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on almost everything else, the new year begins with surging growth for renewable energy. “2020 was the year of positive surprises for the environment in a way that very few saw coming,” says Jeff McDermott, head of Nomura Greentech. “It was the breakout year in sustainability and infrastructure.” https://bloom.bg/3966PJZ

Sophic Capital Client Insights

Luckbox (LUCK-TSXV) – Meet the company. Esports offers an absurdly large number of betting opportunities. Esports bettors are a young and growing demographic – a generation that grew up with video games. Luckbox’s stock (TSXV:LUCK) is one of the few ways investors can invest in esports betting. http://bit.ly/3oxt7ed


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