nextIn Canadian tech & clean tech capital markets, this past week, we witnessed some healthy activity related to cryptocurrencies, as well as Sophic Client, UGE International (UGE-TSXV) raising over $6 million through a bought deal offering. Many Canadian investors are also aware of Monkey Knife Fight, which is being acquired by Bally’s, we were impressed by the product’s engagement as we followed the company’s evolution over the past few years. In the USA, and overall markets the Gamestop / Wallstreetbets has captured everyone’s attention and increased market volatility. The emergence of the popular Reddit forum has led to plenty of speculation around which small cap stocks could be targeted.  As some may have speculated WeWork could be considering going public via a SPAC, Roblox’s IPO could be delayed, and Coinbase is considering going public via a direct listing.

Canadian Technology Capital Markets & Company News

Telus International sets IPO terms, to be valued at up to $5.6 billion. Telus International Inc. has set terms for its initial public offering, in which the Canada-based telecommunications company looks to raise up to about $548.2 million. The company is offering 21.93 million shares in the IPO, while selling shareholders are offering 11.40 million shares, for a total of 33.33 million shares offered. The IPO is expected to price between $23 and $25 a share. With 223.73 million shares outstanding after the IPO, the pricing values the company at up to $5.59 billion. The company has applied for its shares to list on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol “TIXT.” J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley are the lead bookrunners of the IPO. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company reported net income of $81.9 million on revenue of $1.14 billion, after net income of $41.7 million on revenue of $747.1 million in the year-ago period. https://bit.ly/3iZAzg7

Bally’s Corporation to acquire Monkey Knife Fight, fastest growing daily fantasy sports site in North America. Bally’s Corporation announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Monkey Knife Fight (“MKF”), the award-winning, fastest-growing gaming platform and third-largest daily fantasy sports (“DFS”) operator in North America. The all-stock transaction makes Bally’s just the third sports betting company in the U.S. to have a fantasy sports segment. With approximately 180,000 registered users and 80,000 depositing players, MKF’s distinctive, user-friendly gaming platform will become an integral component of the “Bally’s Interactive” division, as well as contribute to Bally’s growing player database. MKF will support Bally’s plans to develop a potential sports bettors database in states such as California, Florida and Texas, which are expected to account for 20-25% of U.S. sports betting revenues (according to Wall Street analyst research estimates). It will also enable Bally’s to build a player database in Canada, a market that is expected to authorize sports betting in the near future. As part of the acquisition, MKF is set to receive immediately exercisable penny warrants to purchase up to approximately US$50 million in Bally’s common shares (subject to adjustment) at closing, and (2) contingent penny warrants to purchase up to approximately US$20 million in additional Bally’s common shares on each of the first and second anniversaries of closing, for a possible total of up to approximately US$40 million. http://prn.to/3agaRAa

LEAF (LEAF-TSXV) announces filing of final short form prospectus and $20 million subscription receipt offering in connection with acquisition of East Side Games. The Offering will consist of 88,888,888 Subscription Receipts at a price of $0.225 per Subscription Receipt, for gross proceeds of $20 million, offered through a syndicate of agents including Eight Capital and Haywood Securities Inc. as co-lead agents (collectively the “Co-Lead Agents”), Paradigm Capital Inc. and Scotia Capital Inc. on a best-efforts basis. Each Subscription Receipt will entitle the holder thereof to receive, upon satisfaction of certain release and issuance conditions as set out in the Prospectus (including the satisfaction or waiver of all conditions precedent to the Acquisition (as defined below), other than the payment of the purchase price), one LEAF Share. http://bit.ly/3t3N4f5

POET Technologies (PTK-TSXV) announces upsize to private placement. The Company, a designer and developer of the POET Optical Interposer and Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) for the data center and tele-communication markets, is pleased to announce that in connection with the private placement (the “Placement”) announced by the Company, the Company and a syndicate of agents led by Cormark Securities Inc., and including IBK Capital Corp. and PI Financial Corp. (collectively, the “Agents”), have agreed to increase the size of the Placement. The Company will now issue up to 14,706,000 units (the “Units”) from the treasury of the Company, at a price of $0.85 per Unit (the “Issue Price”) for total gross proceeds of up to approximately $12.5 million (the “Placement”). http://bit.ly/36iYP7K

UGE International (UGE-TSXV, Sophic Client) announces upsized $6.1 million bought deal unit offering. UGE International Ltd. entered into an amended letter of engagement with Eight Capital, under which Eight Capital has now agreed to purchase, as sole bookrunner and lead underwriter, together with a syndicate of underwriters (together with Eight Capital, the “Underwriters”) 2,300,000 units of the Company (the “Unit”), on a “bought deal” private placement basis, subject to all required regulatory approvals, at a price per Unit of $2.65 (the “Issue Price”) for gross proceeds of $6,095,000 (the “Offering”). http://bit.ly/3pyNecq

BC’s Kardium raises US$115 million for heart device technology. Kardium, a British Columbia-based medical device company, has secured $115 million USD from Fidelity Management and T. Rowe Price Associates. The round was led by United States-based Fidelity Management, with T. Rowe Price Associates providing follow-on investment after leading Kardium’s US$40 million USD financing in 2018. The company is reportedly looking to hit the public markets in 2024. http://bit.ly/3qZVXEG

Tealbook raises $18.2 million as COVID-19 increases demand for supply chain solutions. Toronto-based data startup Tealbook has raised $18.2 million in Series A financing as it looks to capitalize on pandemic-induced supply chain disruption. The round was led by RTP Global. New investors include Reciprocal Ventures and S&P Global, while follow-on investors include BDC Capital, Grand Ventures, Refinery Ventures, Stand Up Ventures, and Workday Ventures Tealbook’s procurement intelligence platform aims to improve supply chain data with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), giving buyers access to increased supplier information to help them make more informed decisions. http://bit.ly/36jlq4d

BlackCart claims $50 million valuation following $11.2 million Series A round. Toronto-based BlackCart, which offers a “try-before-you-buy” e-commerce solution for retailers, has raised an $11.2 million Series A round of funding. The Series A round comes less than one year after the startup launched its platform and raised a $2 million seed round. To date, the startup has raised a total of $14 million. BlackCart claims it has seen notable growth since the time of that last raise. Speaking with BetaKit, BlackCart founder Donny Ouyang claimed the startup’s post-money valuation now sits at $50 million, representing a 362 percent increase from the startup’s valuation of $10.88 million following its last financing round in June 2020. http://bit.ly/3cpVFmI

Cryptocurrencies may become ‘legitimate stores of value’: CIBC CEO. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s chief executive said the financial institution has looked into ways it could potentially use cryptocurrencies in the future. CIBC CEO Victor Dodig said in an interview taped Tuesday the bank is keeping an eye on the volatile crypto space, adding that some may eventually start acting more like regular currencies. “We follow it. We understand it to the extent you can understand it,” Dodig said. “It’s still early stages in terms of the role that they’ll play. I think over the medium to long term, some of them will be considered a legitimate store of value, and we’ll adapt to it at that point. It’s still a very unregulated space and we live in a regulated environment.” http://bit.ly/3orgOze

As Bitcoin ETFs stall, a new $180 million crypto trust fund goes public. There are many quirks to Bitcoin investing, but one of the biggest ones is that regulators have refused to approve an exchange-traded fund that holds the digital currency. In the absence of an ETF—which investors use as a cheap and easy way to get exposure to various assets —companies have turned to a workaround in the form of trusts to offer Bitcoin on the stock market. The latest example is Ninepoint Partners, a Canadian fund that went public after raising $180 million from private investors. After receiving regulatory approval earlier this month, the firm listed its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Ninepoint follows the example of Grayscale, which pioneered the model of creating a trust dedicated to buying Bitcoin, and then selling shares in that trust in return for a commission. Ninepoint is storing the Bitcoin backing the trust with Gemini, the New York-based cryptocurrency firm run by the Winklevoss twins. One prominent cryptocurrency executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the trust structure as a loophole, and predicted the SEC will eventually close it or, more likely, finally approve an ETF. The executive added, however, that any such approval could still be years away, noting the agency has rebuffed numerous petitions from various companies to create a Bitcoin ETF. http://bit.ly/3pA7g6e

Evolve files preliminary prospectus for Bitcoin ETF. Evolve Funds Group Inc. (“Evolve”) has filed a preliminary prospectus with the Canadian securities regulators for the Bitcoin ETF (“EBIT” or “the Fund”).  EBIT is designed to provide investors with exposure to bitcoin, by investing directly in bitcoin. The investment objective of EBIT is to provide investors with exposure to the daily price movements of the U.S. dollar price of bitcoin by utilizing the benefits of the creation and redemption processes offered by the exchange traded fund structure. The Fund will directly own bitcoin on the bitcoin blockchain in a cold wallet. The Fund will not seek exposure through derivatives or futures contracts. The Fund’s holdings will be priced based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate, a once-a-day benchmark index price for bitcoin denominated in U.S. dollars. http://bit.ly/3iY2FII

TMX Group launches automated platform to help companies secure capital amid increase in private placements. TMX Group, which owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV), has launched TMX dealLINX, a new automated private placement platform that aims to help companies issue securities and raise money more easily. The move follows a 57 percent year-over-year increase in total private placement value on the TSX and TSXV last year, according to the TMX-produced December 2020 MiG Report, which collects and summarizes data from both exchanges. TMX claims its new dealLINX platform will help companies raise capital faster and more cheaply by reducing their compliance risk and administrative overhead. The financial services company launched the automated platform earlier this month, targeting both private and public companies that raise capital via non-brokered private placements. http://bit.ly/39vfDKM

Blackberry and Baidu deepen autonomous, connected car partnership. Blackberry and Chinese search engine giant Baidu have agreed to expand a partnership that aims to give automakers the tools they need to launch next-generation connected and autonomous vehicles in China. Under the deal, Baidu’s high-definition maps will be integrated into Blackberry’s QNX Neutrino Real-Time Operating System. The embedded system will be mass produced in the upcoming GAC New Energy Aion models from the electric vehicle arm of GAC Group, one of the country’s top three automakers that produces more 2 million vehicles a year. The aim of this new, expanded partnership is to “provide car manufacturers with a clear and fast path to the production of autonomous vehicles, with safety and security as the top priority,” according to a statement from Wang Yunpeng, senior director of the technology department of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group. http://tcrn.ch/3afa1TY

Rexall and Uber Eats partner to deliver healthcare products to Canadians. Rexall is announcing a new direct to consumer partnership with Uber Eats, available at 200 Rexall locations across Canada. Together, Rexall and Uber Eats will give customers access to over 800 quality products through the Uber Eats mobile or desktop app, with items ranging from health, personal care, household, cleaning, beauty, cosmetics, baby supplies and more.  http://bit.ly/39qgVqg

 

Global Markets: IPOs, Venture Capital, M&A

When SPACs attack! A new force is invading Wall Street. Nearly 300 SPACs are now seeking deals, armed with about US$90 billion in cash. And more are rolling out at a furious clip—so far this year, an average of five new SPACs launched each business day. These deals are generating a lot of interest because they produce big paydays for their creators, make it easier for startups in hot industries such as electric vehicles to capitalize on a frothy run-up in the stock market and offer everyday investors a new path to a hot stock. But even some of the people getting rich off the blank-check boom caution that the euphoria could be part of a bubble that overvalues nascent companies. If it bursts, it could leave a few insiders as winners while saddling individual investors who got in late with big losses. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Solomon warned on the company’s earnings call Tuesday that the flurry of activity isn’t sustainable. Goldman is one of the biggest banks benefiting from the SPAC boom. For now there is no end in sight to the SPAC attack, which coincides with a vast run-up in risky investments that has everything from U.S. technology stocks to bitcoin soaring. The SPACs are pulling in more than 70% of all money raised through initial public offerings this month, up from nearly half last year and about 20% the year before, according to Dealogic data through Thursday. The 67 SPACs created this year have already raked in nearly US$20 billion from investors. That is well above the total from all of 2019, which was a record before last year’s historic haul of US$82 billion. http://on.wsj.com/39qyir3

Qualtrics shares rise nearly 40% in IPO. Qualtrics, which provides survey software to companies and academic researchers, became the latest business software company to have a successful public market debut. Its shares opened almost 40% higher than their IPO price of US$30 and closed the day at US$45.50, giving the 19-year-old company a market capitalization of more than US$27 billion. The results underscore investors’ voracious appetite for cloud-based subscription software stocks and suggest that the US$8 billion that SAP paid for Qualtrics in late 2018 wasn’t an overpay, although it initially seemed that way. SAP last July announced plans to spin off Qualtrics and remains its majority shareholder. http://bit.ly/3taAYkw

Chinese video app Kuaishou raises US$5.4 billion in Hong Kong IPO. Kuaishou Technology, the operator of China’s most popular video service after ByteDance Ltd.’s Douyin, raised HK$42 billion (US$5.4 billion) after pricing its Hong Kong initial public offering at the top of a marketed range. The short-video startup, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., sold 365 million shares at HK$115 apiece, according to terms for the deal obtained by Bloomberg on Friday. It was marketing the shares at HK$105 to HK$115 each. Kuaishou’s IPO pricing values the company at US$60.9 billion. That’s more than double the US$28.6 billion valuation it achieved in a funding round last year, according to PitchBook. The deal ranks as the world’s biggest internet IPO since Uber Technologies Inc.’s US$8.1 billion U.S. share sale in May 2019. The Chinese startup’s IPO will also give another boost to Hong Kong’s already-hot capital markets. Chinese tech firms are eyeing sizable offerings to tap the robust demand, with U.S.-listed internet search giant Baidu Inc. aiming to raise at least US$3.5 billion via a second listing in the city, Bloomberg News has reported. http://bloom.bg/3r9MwCX

SEC scrutiny delays Roblox stock market listing. Roblox Corp has postponed plans to go public because of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s scrutiny of how the video game platform recognizes revenue in its finances, according to a memo the company sent to employees on Thursday. The delay is a setback for one of the most eagerly-anticipated U.S. public market debuts of 2021. The company had said in a regulatory filing earlier this month that it was aiming to list shares on the New York Stock Exchange in February. Roblox’s valuation skyrocketed to US$29.5 billion in a fundraising round earlier this month, more than seven times the US$4 billion the company was valued at 11 months earlier, amid a surge in the popularity of video games during the COVID-19 pandemic. http://reut.rs/36nSdFl

Coinbase says it plans to go public through a direct listing. Coinbase Global Inc. announced in a Thursday blog post that it intends to go public via a direct listing. The company disclosed in December that it had filed a a draft prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission related to its plans to turn public. That filing would become available after an SEC review. Coinbase operates a platform that lets people trade bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The company plans its public debut as the Renaissance IPO ETF has risen 31% over the past three months and as the S&P 500 has climbed 16%. http://on.mktw.net/3j8K7Wk

WeWork eyeing public SPAC debut in deal that could be worth US$10 billion, report says. WeWork could be taking its second shot at trying to go public, according to a Thursday report from The Wall Street Journal. The office-sharing company, which tried but ultimately failed in its attempt to go public at a valuation of around US$47 billion in 2019, is in talks to combine with a SPAC, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter. A deal could value WeWork at US$10 billion, which would be a dramatic fall from its peak valuation of US$47 billion in 2019 when SoftBank led a funding round. While WeWork has been weighing offers from a SPAC affiliated with Bow Capital Management LLC, it has also received separate offers for a new private investment round that it is considering, according to the report. SPACs have been all the rage over the past year as companies look for a faster and cheaper route to go public relative to the traditional IPO. Nearly US$75 billion was raised by 219 SPAC IPOs in 2020, and 2021 has been off to a strong start as well, with more than 80 SPAC debuts so far this month, according to data from SPACInsider. http://bit.ly/3td5ZnM

Faraday Future is going public and raising US$1 billion. The troubled EV startup announced Thursday that it is indeed merging with special purpose acquisition corporation (or SPAC) Property Solutions, as first reported by Bloomberg earlier this month. About US$230 million will come from the money that Property Solutions raised in its SPAC. The other US$775 million will come from a new funding round happening concurrently with the merger. Geely, China’s biggest privately owned automaker, is contributing “less than 10 percent” of that new investment, and US$175 million is coming from an unnamed “Tier 1 Chinese City,” meaning that the Chinese government is involved in the deal. Faraday Future will have around US$748 million of cash to play with when all is said and done. http://bit.ly/36lIak7

Website-building company Squarespace confidentially files to go public. New York-based Squarespace announced Wednesday it had confidentially submitted paperwork for a stock-market listing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The website building and hosting company didn’t specify whether it would go public through a direct listing or an initial public offering (IPO). Squarespace was last valued at US$1.7 billion in December 2017, when growth-equity firm General Atlantic invested US$200 million in the platform, adding to the US$40 million it invested in 2014, according to Crunchbase. http://bit.ly/3coLsa1

ON24 sets IPO terms, to be valued at up to US$2.2 billion. ON24 Inc. has set terms for its initial public offering, in which the San Francisco-based company, which enables interactive webinar experiences and virtual event experiences, could raise up to US$315.8 million and be valued at up to US$2.22 billion. The company is offering 6.3 million shares in the IPO, which is expected to price between US$45 and US$50 a share, while selling shareholders are offering an additional 2.3 million shares. The company expects to have about 44.5 million shares outstanding after the IPO. The stock is expected to list on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “ONTF.” Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Securities and KeyBanc Capital are the lead underwriters. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company recorded net income of $7.0 million on revenue of $103.7 million, after a loss of $24.9 million on revenue of $65.2 million in the same period a year earlier. http://on.mktw.net/3qXbEwn

Taboola and Latch announce SPAC mergers. 2021’s special purpose acquisition company merger window has opened for business. On Monday, content recommendation company Taboola and smart lock-maker Latch both announced plans to go public by merging with SPACs. Taboola is merging with ION Acquisition Corp. 1 Ltd. in a deal that will value Taboola at US$2.6 billion. Taboola was last valued at US$1 billion in February 2015, PitchBook data shows. Latch is merging with TS Innovation Acquisitions Corp., a SPAC sponsored by commercial real estate firm Tishman Speyer, in a deal that values Latch at US$1.56 billion. Latch was last valued at US$454 million in August 2019, PitchBook data shows. The SPAC market is showing no signs of cooling down: already this year, 67 SPAC listings have raised US$19.5 billion in capital. That’s more SPAC IPOs and capital raised than what was done in the entire year of 2019, according to SPAC Research. http://bit.ly/2KR41IH

Oaktree-Backed Shoals jumps 24% after US$1.9 billion IPO. Solar-power components maker Shoals Technologies Group Inc. climbed 24% in its trading debut after its initial public offering topped expectations to raise US$1.9 billion. Shares of the Portland, Tennessee-based company opened at US$31.30 Wednesday after selling for US$25 each in the IPO. The shares, which rose as much as 40% during the day, closed at US$30.98 in New York trading. Shoals, along with an entity controlled by investment firm Oaktree Capital Management, sold 77 million shares Tuesday, after marketing 70 million shares for US$22 to US$23. The company is the latest in a string of clean-tech companies going public through IPOs or mergers with special purpose acquisition companies, also known as SPACs or blank-check companies. While electric-vehicle companies including Nikola Corp. and Fisker Inc. have garnered the most attention, the deals have included solar companies, too. http://bloom.bg/3cmv5uE

Reddit group WallStreetBets hits 6 million users overnight after a wild week of trading antics. Reddit community r/WallStreetBets surged by more than 1.5 million users overnight to 6 million members on Friday, as newly minted day traders and meme lovers piled in to watch the fun. According to FrontpageMetrics, an unofficial site that measures subreddits’ growth, r/WallStreetBets was the fastest-growing all week, increasing its members by more than 2 million over the last 7 days. The group started Thursday with 4.4 million members. The community has been around since 2012, and began the year with a little above 1 million users. http://bit.ly/3ov2mWR

Robinhood is said to draw on bank credit lines amid tumult. Robinhood Markets, the trading app that’s popular with investors behind this month’s wildest stock swings, has drawn down some of its bank credit lines to ensure it has enough cash to clear trades, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The firm, according to one of the people, has tapped at least several hundred million dollars, a significant amount of money for a firm that was valued at about US$12 billion a few months ago. Robinhood’s lenders include JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Representatives for Robinhood and those banks declined to comment. The behind-the-scenes rush to bolster Robinhood’s finances adds to signs that recent market havoc is putting a strain on the company, which has signed up throngs of retail investors for its app during the pandemic. Robinhood has leaned on its credit with banks to weather turmoil before. In March, the firm drew down an entire US$200 million facility from a trio of lenders, people familiar with the matter said at the time, as the coronavirus pandemic set off a flood of transactions and steep market swings, during which Robinhood’s trading platform suffered repeated outages. http://bloom.bg/3iZOP8w

How many stocks will Robinhood let you buy? The numbers keep shrinking. Robinhood only wants users to have a limited number of shares of companies like GameStop, and that number keeps getting smaller and smaller. On Thursday, the company halted users’ ability to buy stocks that were associated with r/WallStreetBets, including GameStop, AMC, and Nokia, but the company promised that users would be able to buy limited quantities on Friday. The company released a shifting support document that details just how limited things are — and to slightly paraphrase Lando, the deal’s getting worse all the time. When trading opened, users were limited to owning five shares of GameStop in aggregate, meaning they could only own up to five — if they already had three GameStop stocks, they could only buy two more — but even that restriction hasn’t lasted. Soon, the number of shares you could buy in GME dropped to two and then finally down to a single share. That’s right: you couldn’t buy more than one. As the day went on, and the markets closed, the number of restricted stocks kept increasing, from 13 to 23 to over 50 at the time you read these words. http://bit.ly/3ailulR

Robinhood reportedly restricts crypto trading temporarily ‘due to extraordinary market conditions’ as Bitcoin and Dogecoin spike sharply. Robinhood limited cryptocurrency trading on its platform Friday following the soaring prices of Bitcoin and Dogecoin, CNBC reported. “Due to extraordinary market conditions, we’ve temporarily turned off instant buying power for crypto,” a Robinhood spokesperson told CNBC. “Customers can still use settled funds to buy crypto. We’ll keep monitoring market conditions and communicating with our customers.” Earlier in the day, traders on Robinhood were unable to make new deposits for cryptocurrency purchases. They could buy cryptocurrencies only with the existing deposits in their accounts, which can take five business days to clear, CNBC said. http://bit.ly/3j5t4nR

How WallStreetBets pushed GameStop shares to the Moon. Short sellers have been called a lot of things. Bloodsuckers. Parasites. Other words not fit to print. Now in the vortex engulfing GameStop Corp., they have a new name: the establishment. It’s a role cast for them with relish by their chat-room usurpers, the tens of thousands of average Joe day-traders whose fervor for a left-for-dead retailer has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in its 245% rally this year. GameStop has become a money geyser for the options-obsessed crowd that gathers in Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum. For those wagering on a decline, it’s been a catastrophe. Now it has, violently. GameStop, which isn’t expected to turn a profit before 2023, has seen its market value triple to $4.5 billion in three weeks, burning the skeptics whose any attempt to cover is likely to further propel its ascent. http://bloom.bg/2YeL1XC

Beyond Meat spikes 39% after it forms partnership with Pepsi to develop plant-based snacks. Shares of Beyond Meat spiked as much as 39% on Tuesday after the alternative meat company formed a partnership with Pepsi to develop plant-based snacks and beverages. The two food companies will form The PLANeT Partnership, a joint venture focused on developing, producing, and marketing innovative snack and beverage products made from plant-based proteins. “Plant-based proteins represent an exciting growth opportunity for us, a new frontier in our efforts to build a more sustainable food system and be a positive force for people and the planet, while meeting consumer demand for an expanded portfolio of more nutritious products,” said Ram Krishnan, PepsiCo Global Chief Commercial Officer. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed. http://bit.ly/3cqN7f4

Etsy rises after Elon Musk tweets about how he ‘kinda loves’ the online marketplace for independent creators. Etsy shares rose on Tuesday after billionaire Elon Musk tweeted about how he loves the online marketplace. “I kinda love Etsy,” Musk said in a tweet early Tuesday, adding that he bought a hand-knit woolen ‘Marvin the Martian’ helmet for his dog. Although the Tesla founder didn’t comment on Etsy’s financial prospects, its stock surged within minutes of Musk publishing his tweet. http://bit.ly/3pDLOx6

China’s Didi raises US$300 million for autonomous driving unit. Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said on Thursday it has raised US$300 million for its autonomous driving unit, tapping investors to expand its technological know-how in the field for a second time since last year. Investment firm IDG Capital led the funding while CPE, the Russia-China Investment Fund, Guotai Junan International and CCB International were among the investors participating, a representative for Didi said. Some of the investors also recently invested in Didi’s freight unit. One of the many auto and tech firms investing heavily in self-driving technology, SoftBank-backed Didi has gained open-road testing licences in California, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou. It first began to develop and test autonomous driving vehicles in 2016. Didi’s autonomous driving unit raised over US$500 million in May last year. http://reut.rs/3j1LZA1

China’s Huawei in talks to sell premium smartphone brands P and Mate. China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is in early-stage talks to sell its premium smartphone brands P and Mate, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said, a move that could see the company eventually exit from the high-end smartphone-making business. The talks between the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and a consortium led by Shanghai government-backed investment firms have been going on for months, the people said, declining to be identified as the discussions were confidential. Huawei started to internally explore the possibility of selling the brands as early as last September, according to one of the sources. The two sources were not privy to the valuation placed on the brands by Huawei. Shipments of Mate and P Series phones were worth US$39.7 billion between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, according to consultancy IDC. http://reut.rs/3qUeDG7

Gartner predicts IT spending will rebound to US$3.9 trillion in 2021 as CIOs step up digital investments. After clamping down on tech spending over the past 12 months, CIOs and individual consumers are set to make 2021 a banner year for many IT budget categories. A new report from Gartner predicts that tech spending will hit US$3.9 trillion this year, a 6.2% increase over 2020, with purchases of hardware such as mobile devices and personal computers leading the way along with investment in business software. That forecast annual growth rate represents an even stronger rebound than after the 2008 financial crisis according to the research firm, whose reports are based on insights from thousands of vendors that it tracks and are widely followed by the tech industry. Last year, global IT spending fell by 3.2% as businesses and consumers tightened their belts in response to the pandemic. Gartner reckons investment in PCs and other hardware will rise 8% this year, hitting almost US$715 billion. This growth rate will only be beaten by spending on business software, which is forecast to rise by 8.8%. Both sectors will be boosted by companies’ ongoing efforts to support work-from-anywhere strategies: According to the report, global IT investment related to remote work will hit almost $333 billion this year. http://bit.ly/2MqH13n

Emerging Technologies

SpaceX launches a record 143 satellites on one rocket, aces landing. SpaceX successfully launched an ambitious rideshare mission as one of its veteran boosters hoisted 143 small satellites — a new record for a single rocket — into space before nailing a landing at sea. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Sunday morning (Jan. 24), soaring into a blue sky dotted with clouds at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station here in Florida. https://bit.ly/3iLgc6i

Valve reveals partnership with OpenBCI to make VR gaming more immersive. In a candid interview with New Zealand’s 1 News, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell sat down to talk all about his future vision for brain-computer interfaces (BCI), and how the technology is set to change everything about how we live (and play) today. From the outside, it seems like Valve is taking baby steps, however Newell says research is going much faster than anticipated. Newell hasn’t been secretive about his thoughts on BCI, and how it could be an “extinction-level event for every entertainment form.” His message to software developers: start thinking about how to use BCI now, because it’s going to be important to all aspects of the entertainment industry fairly soon. How soon? Newell says in a talk with News 1 that by 2022, studios should have them in their test labs “simply because there’s too much useful data.” http://bit.ly/3iZTrM6

Media, Streaming, Gaming & Sports Betting

Gambling apps are coming to Google’s Play Store in the US and 14 other countries. An upcoming change to Google’s Play Store policies will allow gambling and betting Android apps that use real money in 15 more countries, including the US, according to 9to5Google. Currently, gambling apps are only allowed in four countries: Brazil, France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The new rules will be applied starting on March 1st, and they’ll permit gambling apps in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. Of course, each country will have its own limitations on what kind of online gambling is legal, with some countries allowing online casinos, sports betting, lotteries, and daily fantasy sports, and some being more restrictive. The change won’t be opening the floodgates for just anyone to release a slot machine app. Currently, Google requires developers to go through an application process to get their gambling apps on the Play Store, and the new policies won’t be removing that requirement. The application ensures that the developer uploading the app is licensed to run a gambling operation in the country where the app will be sold. http://bit.ly/2YquNL2

Xbox Series X/S launch and Game Pass push Microsoft’s quarterly gaming revenue past US$5 billion. The latest Xbox console release helped Microsoft hit a new mark for gaming revenue, topping $5 billion during the December quarter, up 51% year-over-year. Microsoft’s gaming arm boosted its fiscal second quarter results reported Tuesday, which beat analyst expectations as overall revenue climbed 17% to more than $43 billion, and profits rose 33% to $15.5 billion. The November debut of the Xbox Series X and S, Microsoft’s entry into the ninth-generation console wars, spurred a full 86% increase in hardware revenue for the quarter, despite retail supplies for the new Xbox being sharply limited. Microsoft previously said the Series X and S was the company’s largest console launch yet, easily topping the 2013 launch of the Xbox One. Xbox content and services revenue increased to US$3.5 billion, up 40%, driven by growth in third-party titles, Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, and first-party titles. Microsoft announced in November, after the Series X and S launch, that 70% of its new consoles had ended up tied to a Game Pass subscription. The Game Pass, which reached 15 million subscribers in September, seems to be driving most of Microsoft’s strategy in the gaming space at the moment. The Netflix-style subscription plan lets players download and play the retail versions of a rotating assortment of video game. http://bit.ly/39qjYz1

Plex is launching a game subscription service filled with Atari games.  Plex, well known as a service for streaming movies, music, and TV shows from your own computer, is now adding another thing you can stream: video games (via Protocol). Plex announced the new service, called Plex Arcade, on its blog and also launched a website for it. The service will cost US$3 a month if you’re a Plex Pass subscriber, and US$5 a month if you’re not. Instead of focusing on modern console or phone games like its competitors, Plex lets you play Atari games. It’s taking the arcade name seriously, as you can play arcade classics from Atari, like Centipede, Super Breakout, and Missile Command, as well as games from the Atari 2600 and 7800. Overall, there are 27 games available on the service. http://bit.ly/3qWOC90

Can the games industry keep its COVID customers? Big numbers can hide a multitude of sins. Theses past few weeks have been full of big numbers. GamesIndustry.biz has (so far) covered UK, US, Japan and Australia, and they’ve all delivered big numbers in 2020. If we take the GSD data, which covers retail and digital sales across Europe, Australia and more*, we can see that game sales rose 28% last year. It’s a result of the COVID bounce, where people who are in isolation or locked down are buying video games to keep themselves occupied, entertained, socially connected and even healthy. https://bit.ly/3oltGGU

Adtech, Privacy & Regulatory

Google faces two fresh antitrust lawsuits in the EU over its data gathering and advertising practices. Google is facing fresh antitrust action in the EU as officials continue to scrutinize the tech giant’s data gathering and advertising practices. After fining Google close to $10 billion in fines for anticompetitive behavior in the past few years, the European Commission is looking at two probes int the firm’s conduct, with both in the early stages. Politico reported that the Commission sent questionnaires to a host of advertising industry players in December, probing jointly into Google’s adtech and data practices. The Commission later confirmed in an email to Bloomberg, writing: “This investigation covers all services of Google, including digital advertising and the ad tech chain.” The questionnaires ask companies to share their views on Google’s data collection practices, such as the firm’s decision to combine cookie information with personal data without consent in 2016, as well its role in online advertising, including the importance of Google-owned YouTube in running online ad campaigns, and how much they spend on Google Ads campaigns. http://bit.ly/3a9NPuK

Apple says App Tracking Transparency feature will launch in ‘early spring’ with iOS 14 update. In honor of Data Privacy Day on January 28, Apple has announced that its App Tracking Transparency feature will launch to users “in early spring.” The company has also launched a new easy-to-understand report dubbed “A Day in the Life of Your Data,” which illustrates “how companies track user data across websites and apps.” In a new press release, Apple’s software engineering VP Craig Federighi explained that Apple’s goal is to “create technology that keeps people’s information safe and protected.” http://bit.ly/2NQhwJK

Grindr fined millions for sharing users’ sexual orientation and location with advertisers. Grindr, the gay social networking and dating app, failed to give its users the privacy that the law—in Europe, at least—demands. That’s the finding of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, which upheld complaints by privacy and consumer-protection campaigners over Grindr’s past sharing of sensitive personal data with third parties, including Twitter and various adtech companies. The violations took place between 2018 and 2020. The Norwegian watchdog hit Grindr with a fine of €10 million (US$11.6 million), which is astonishingly high when measured against Grindr’s estimated revenues of over US$100 million in 2019—it represents around a third of Grindr’s net profit for that year. https://bit.ly/2MnY9a7

Fintech, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency

Jack Ma’s Ant plans major revamp in response to Chinese pressure. Chinese regulators recently told Ant, which is controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, to become a financial holding company in its entirety, subjecting it to more stringent capital requirements, the people said. Ant, in response, has submitted to authorities an outline of a restructuring plan, they said. The plan represents a significant turnaround by a digital-payments juggernaut that has in recent years tried to shed its image as a financial-services provider and fashion itself as an internet-technology company, which helped it command lofty valuations. Before its blockbuster initial public offering was called off in November, Ant had been on track to go public at a valuation north of US$300 billion, well above the market capitalizations of the world’s biggest banks. Designating Ant in its entirety as a financial holding company wasn’t something earlier envisioned by the company’s executives and stakeholders. In its listing prospectus last year, Ant said it intended for one of its subsidiaries to become a financial holding company and house its licensed financial businesses such as asset management and consumer lending. Doing this at the group level will subject Ant to a thicket of regulations similar to those that govern banks, and affect its growth and profitability. The restructuring plan, still under deliberation, could be finalized before China goes on a weeklong Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, people familiar with the matter said. http://on.wsj.com/3rapH1E

India plans to introduce law to ban Bitcoin, other private cryptocurrencies. India plans to introduce a law to ban private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in the country and provide a framework for the creation of an official digital currency during the current budget session of parliament. In the agenda (PDF) published on the lower house website, the legislation seeks to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India,” but allow “for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology [blockchain] of cryptocurrency and its uses.” The law also seeks to “create a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency” that will be issued by the nation’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, the agenda said. In 2018, an Indian government panel recommended banning all private cryptocurrencies and proposed up to 10 years of jail time for offenders. The panel also suggested the government to explore a digital version of the fiat currency and ways to implement it. http://tcrn.ch/3oyHXAl

Bitcoin’s spike drives rebound in hard-hit crypto mining stocks. Bitcoin has surged more than 300% in just a year, hitting a new all-time high on Friday before slipping back. Crypto mining stocks-including Marathon Patent Group, Riot Blockchain, Bit Digital, and others-are soaring on Friday as Bitcoin’s recovery continues. Crypto miners saw their share prices plummet through January after Bitcoin fell from January 8 highs of over US$40,000, momentarily dropping below US$30,000 this week for the first time since Jan 2. In the past two days though Bitcoin has recovered over 20%, and crypto mining stocks are soaring in response. Shares of Marathon Patent Group were up as much as 20%, Bit Digital was up as much as 18%, and Riot Blockchain was up as much as 21% on the day before the stocks pared gains. http://bit.ly/2YtlolT

Harvard Economics professor: Governments will not allow bitcoin on a big scale and they will win. “It’s speculative,” he began. “I’ve been a bitcoin skeptic and certainly the price has gone up.” However, Rogoff argued, “there’s sort of an ultimate question of what’s the use. Is it just valuable because people think it’s valuable? That is a bubble that would blow up.” He continued: “I can see bitcoin being used in failed states. It’s conceivable it could have some use in a dystopian future.” Nonetheless, he emphasized, “I think the governments are not going to allow pseudonymous transactions on a big scale. They’re just not going to allow it.” https://bit.ly/3ofom8f

ESG

Biden plans to replace the US government’s fleet of 650,000 vehicles with electric models in a shift to clean energy. President Joe Biden said on Monday his new administration will replace the US government’s fleet of around 650,000 vehicles with electric models in a bid to shift to clean energy.  Whilst signing a new “Buy American” executive order, Biden said: “The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America made by American workers.” It’s unclear when the electric vehicles will rollout and which models they will be. Reuters reported it could cost US$20 billion or more to fully replace the fleet. The White House didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.  “This will be the largest mobilization of public investment and procurement, infrastructure and R&D, since World War II,” said Biden, who was sworn into office on January 20. http://bit.ly/3chQTHK

Renewables overtook fossil fuels in EU electricity mix in 2020: Report. Renewables overtook fossil fuels as the European Union’s main source of electricity for the first time in 2020 as new projects came online and coal-power shrank, a report showed on Monday. Renewable sources such as wind and solar generated 38% percent of the 27-member state bloc’s electricity in 2020, with fossil fuels such as coal and gas contributing 37%, the report by think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende showed. https://reut.rs/3qP847I

Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC for Sunlight Financial is another sign of a renewables boom. Former Facebook employee and current enfant terrible of high finance Chamath Palihapitiya is making news again with a US$1.3 billion twofer SPAC and PIPE deal into the solar energy financing company, Sunlight Financial. Sunlight Financial is essentially a lending company that gives solar installers a way to provide loans to homeowners to finance solar power and battery installations and other home improvement projects. https://tcrn.ch/3a6AnYw

BlackRock boss Larry Fink calls on CEOs worldwide to disclose concrete plans for reaching net zero by 2050. BlackRock founder Larry Fink on Tuesday morning pushed CEOs around the world to publish plans for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In a letter he sends annually, Fink called on companies to “disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net zero economy,” defined as limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “We expect you to disclose how this plan is incorporated into your long-term strategy and reviewed by your board of directors,” he wrote to corporate leaders. BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset management firm, would change its investment process via a “heightened-scrutiny model” for managing holdings that pose a climate risk, Fink said. http://bit.ly/3prh56l

ECB pledges to buy green bonds as pressure rises on Bank of England over climate change. The European Central Bank stepped up its focus on climate change on Monday, announcing that it will create a specialist team to look into the issue and start investing in a “green bond” fund. It comes as central banks face growing scrutiny over their investments, with a group of British lawmakers on Monday calling on the Bank of England to stop funding polluters through its bond-buying programs. Central banks have increased their attention to climate change in recent years. Many are now members of the Network for Greening the Financial System, which aims to manage the risk of climate change through financial systems. http://bit.ly/3pv5LpZ

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