Weekly Investment News and Analysis
Please see what we’ve been reading in technology and ESG related investing this week. Please feel free to send us what you’ve found interesting.
Latest Invesment News
Invesment News in the Past Weeks
In light of ongoing market volatility, last week was unsurprisingly quiet in Canadian public markets. That said, Portage Ventures closed $788.5 million for its third FinTech fund, which could now be one of the largest early-stage FinTech-focused venture funds in the world. A recent Washington Post piece called out some unsavory behavior by esports organizations, however, public traded companies that are involved in esports, such as Enthusiast Gaming (EGLX-TSX) and GameSquare Esports (Sophic Client, GSQ-CSE), have long had policies that address and curtail these issues. Sophic Client, Clear Blue Technologies’ (CBLU-TSXV) CEO recently returned from overseas customer, prospect, and investor meetings where conversations increasingly focused on how Clear Blue’s renewable, solar power solutions can resolve these issues. Investors seeking exposure to this secular theme should consider Clear Blue Technologies. In the US, Fidelity, T. Rowe mark down their Instacart stake by up to 18%, in light of ongoing market turbulence, we would not be surprised to see additional mark downs in private VC backed companies’ valuations. Amazon announced a US$10 billion share buyback, 20-for-1 stock split, sending the stock up 6% after hours on the announcement. WeWork reports 7.8% increase in revenue for Q4, however some investors question if the company will need to raise capital in H2 2022. Intel’s Mobileye self-driving unit ‘confidentially’ files for IPO. Uber issued an upbeat outlook for the first quarter, declaring in a securities filing that its ride hailing business was “bouncing back from Omicron much faster than we expected.” Rivian stock fell by more than 14% after hours Thursday after the electric vehicle maker said supply chain snags would hinder production this year and indicated it still had a long way to go to deliver on a much-hyped partnership with Amazon. The ‘Jedi Blue’ ad deal between Google and Facebook sparked new Antitrust probes in EU and UK.
CGI (GIB’A-TSX, GIB-NYSE) announced its intent to repurchase 3.97 million of its shares held by CDPQ for $100/sh, from our sell side analyst days, CGI has previously purchased back stock from BCE, and has typically bought back stock on the open market as well. Shopify (SHOP-NYSE, SHOP-TSX) platforms acquirer WeCommerce (WE-TSXV) is purchasing KnoCommerce for $2.6 million. Disco closed a $15 million Series A round from investors behind MasterClass, Coursera to scale its live learning platform. Alibaba-backed beauty tech firm Perfect Corporation will merge with US blank-cheque company in a deal worth US$1 billion. Shares of ride-hailing and food delivery app Grab, one of Southeast Asia’s largest internet companies, plunged 37% Thursday in New York after the firm reported worse-than-expected quarterly results. Sea Ltd., once the hottest stock in the world, has lost more than US$130 billion in market value from its peak last year after a disappointing earnings report that added to its woes. Disney confirms plans to launch ad-supported tier of Disney+. The federal judge presiding over the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit to force Facebook to sell of Instagram and WhatsApp likely won’t rule until 2025, some four years after the case was filed, six years after the investigation first kicked off, and 15 years after Facebook bought the popular photo sharing app. Shopify rival BigCommerce said its revenue growth will slow dramatically this year, in another sign that the pandemic-driven boost for e-commerce players is fading. Ford increased its electrification spend to US$50 billion in attempt to catch up to Tesla, and will split its EV and combustion units in major restructuring. Sony and Honda reveal plans to jointly make and sell electric vehicles. Panasonic aims to start mass production of a higher-capacity battery for Tesla by March 2024. Volvo is testing wireless EV charging tech in Sweden.
Public markets remain extremely volatile, as demonstrated by the 7%+ intra-day swing in the NASDAQ Composite on Thursday, February 24th. Against, this backdrop, Waterloo based eSentire will be valued at US$1.1 billion following $325 million deal. In addition, we counted ~$100 million of additional VC backed deals in Canada last week. Traction Guest, which was one of the first four companies to receive an investment from Salesforce’s $100 million Canadian-focused fund, will be acquired by Salesforce. Terms were not disclosed. Twitter Inc. said Wednesday it is offering US$1 billion of high-yield 8-year bonds in a private placement. Carvana, the online used car marketplace, has agreed to buy Kar Global’s Adesa U.S. auction subsidiary for $2.2 billion in cash. SoFi Technologies Inc. is buying banking-software maker Technisys SA for about US$1.1 billion, the latest in a string of deals designed to transform the lender into a one-stop financial shop. The SEC is investigating whether Tesla stock trades made by Elon Musk and his brother violated insider-trading rules, WSJ report says. Apple reportedly completed production tests for its AR/VR headset. Meta Platforms has broken up a group of more than 300 employees working on operating systems for its virtual and augmented reality devices, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. Meta Platforms is testing ad-revenue sharing on Facebook Reels with all creators in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It will expand the test to more countries in the coming weeks. Alibaba reported its slowest-ever revenue growth for the quarter through December, as its core commerce business in China grew only 7% amid an economic slowdown.
Even as public markets remain choppy, we counted Canadian VC funding totaling almost $600 million in the past week. Public markets remain unforgiving, as evidenced by Shopify’s steep share price decline this past week. With fintech stocks down 40%, Chime delays its IPO. SoftBank is reportedly seeking a US$8 billion margin loan as part of Arm IPO. Banks are planning to pitch IPO valuations for Arm of upward of US$50 billion. Arm is likely worth US$25 billion to US$35 billion based on the industry’s valuation metrics and analysts’ early projections; Bloomberg reported this month. Crypto company Circle doubled its valuation to US$9 billion under new SPAC terms. Sequoia Capital is raising up to US$600 million for a new fund focused on cryptocurrency start-ups. The announcement marks the firm’s first-ever sector-focused investment fund, a sign of its long-term commitment to the exploding crypto sector. Epic says there are now more than 500 million Epic games accounts. Sea Ltd. lost more than US$16 billion of value in its biggest daily market drop after India abruptly banned its most popular mobile gaming title. Super Bowl ads boosted crypto app downloads by 279%, led by Coinbase, which had to briefly throttle traffic after its website crashed. Google is creating new privacy rules for its Android smartphone operating system to curb how users are tracked for advertising purposes, the company said Wednesday, following the path Apple forged with its App Tracking Transparency rules. Construction of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s first advanced chip plant in the U.S. is three to six months behind schedule, sources told Nikkei Asia, a sign that the world’s biggest contract chipmaker is finding it more challenging to expand overseas than at home.
Vancouver quantum computing startup D-Wave is going public on the New York Stock Exchange via a SPAC, which is anticipated to raise $431 million in gross proceeds. Meanwhile, Venture investment in Canada’s tech sector exploded in 2021, according to a new Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) report. Canadian tech startups saw over $16 billion in VC investment last year. This figure crushes the $6 billion the ecosystem saw in 2020, when venture funding sputtered due to the pandemic, and is more than double the country’s previous high of just under $8 billion in 2019. TerraZero Technologies announced a strategic ~$10 million investment from BIGG Digital Assets (BIGG-CSE). EMERGE (ECOM-TSXV) reported strong preliminary Q4 2021 results — Revenue is expected to be between $14.2 million and $14.8 million in Q4 2021, an increase of over 491%, compared to $2.4 million Q4 2020. Almost a decade after the term “unicorn” was coined to describe a rare breed of private company, about two new companies are joining the herd daily, as there now over 1,000 unicorns. Public markets continued to remain choppy with added geopolitical tensions going into the weekend, while there appears to be increased M&A chatter; not unsurprising in light of public markets dislocations. Affirm tumbled 10% after the Buy-Now-Pay-Later fintech’s Twitter blunder revealed details of it’s earnings early. Tesla logged a US$101 million impairment loss from Bitcoin in 2021 as the cryptocurrency’s value fluctuated. Nvidia expects to book US$1.36 billion charge in Q1 Fiscal 2023 due to termination of Arm deal with Softbank. Cisco made US$20 billion-plus takeover offer for Splunk. Binance, led by the world’s richest crypto billionaire, is taking a US$200 million stake in Forbes. OpenSea, the most dominant marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), launched a venture capital arm on Friday, becoming the latest privately held crypto startup to create a division backing other emerging Web3 startups. The biggest assembler of iPhones said component shortages that have plagued electronics production for more than a year are showing signs of easing, a potentially encouraging signal for manufacturers across industries.
This past week witnessed one of the most volatile stock reactions for multiple stocks on earnings we recall seeing. Amazon repurchased ~US$1.3 billion of its stock in January, the first buyback in a decade. After getting smashed earlier this year, Peloton stock shot up more than 30% after market on Friday after reports of Amazon’s acquisition interest. Facebook was set to shed about US$200 billion in market value, following its earnings report, in what would be one of the biggest one-day market capitalization wipeouts for any company on record. PayPal stock sank to a 21-month low Wednesday after the payments platform trimmed its financial forecast, citing the impact of inflation. On the flip side, The startup behind Bored Ape Yacht Club is reportedly in talks with Andreessen Horowitz for funding at a US$5 billion valuation. FTX, the third largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, raised US$400 million in a new funding round that valued the company at US$32 billion, the company announced Monday. Wag Labs Inc., the developer of dog-walking app Wag!, has agreed to go public through a merger with a blank-check company. San Francisco-based Wag and CHW Acquisition Corp. will have a value of about US$350 million as a combined company, according to a Thursday announcement confirming a Bloomberg News report. In Canada, this week we counted nearly a billion dollars of VC funding announcements, including a US$6 million investment by Stack Capital Group (STCK-TSX) into Montreal based Canadian travel Unicorn, Hopper. While announcements can be made after a decent amount of time has elapsed since the funding – this level of VC activity is nonetheless impressive in light of public markets volatility.
Last week, at least four SPACs pulled their initial public offering plans, and Dutch file-sharing service WeTransfer abruptly canceled its IPO in Amsterdam, with its chief executive officer citing turbulent public markets. That said, Chinese fast fashion retailer Shein revived plans for IPO in the U.S. and delivery company Gopuff reportedly hired bankers for its IPO. Nvidia is reportedly preparing to abandon its US$40 billion takeover of Arm. UBS agreed to buy robo-adviser Wealthfront for US$1.4 billion. ESL, FACEIT acquired and merged by Saudi-owned Savvy Gaming Group for a reported US$1.5 billion, as esports gains global acceptance. Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman said his firm has purchased more than 3.1 million shares of Netflix, making it a top-20 holder. Activist investor Blackwells Capital wants the board of Peloton to fire CEO John Foley and pursue a sale of the company. Climate technology startups around the world raised close to US$40 billion in funding over more than 600 venture capital deals last year. In Canada, Exro announced an increase in its bought deal financing to $17.5 million. Eguana filed a final base shelf prospectus for an aggregate amount of up to $150 million during a 25-month period. HealthSpace Data Systems announced pricing of its overnight marketed financing. In mid-November, Gross Merchandise Sales (“GMS”) on EMERGE Commerce’s marketplaces exceeded $100 million. Founder and CEO, Ghassan Halazon, published a shareholder letter outlining progress and plans for EMERGE in 2022 and beyond. Over the years, investors gravitate towards, and anticipate annual shareholder letters, which offer unique/insightful commentary. We’re optimistic this could be the beginning of a similar series, offering insights on an interesting ecommerce capital allocation strategy from EMERGE. Unity’s recent Ziva acquisition, and Apple’s contactless payment announcement for iPhones (which sent Square stock down on Thursday), both leverage Canada’s technology ecosystem, which continues to go from strength to strength despite market turbulence.
This past week was yet another tough one for tech investors, as the NASDAQ continued to slide, and several high growth stocks in the USA and Canada fell lower. While timing the market is impossible, companies continue to execute, and we witnessed several high profile private funding rounds. Sophic Client, GameSquare Esports (GSQ-CSE, GMSQ-OTC) hosted a corporate update webcast, after pre-announcing Q4 2021 revenue was up 3x q/q and ahead of expectations. Shopify plunged by the most since March 2020 after a report that the company terminated contracts with several warehouse and fulfillment partners. 1Password, the password manager startup, has landed a $744.3 million Series C in a Hollywood star-studded round of financing. The company claims the funding round raises its valuation to $6.8 billion. The round is the largest a Canadian company has raised to date, the startup claimed. Canalyst, a leading provider of financial data and analytics, has raised $70 million in a Series C financing led by Dragoneer Investment Group. Sonder began trading on the Nasdaq, after completing its previously announced business combination with Gores Metropoulos II, a California-based special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Andreessen Horowitz is planning to raise US$4.5 billion for crypto investments as the digital asset frenzy continues. Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard in all-cash deal valued at US$68.7 billion to mark its biggest-ever deal. SoFi stock soared after clearing final regulatory hurdle to become a bank. Netflix reported lower than forecast subscriber growth. Robinhood started rolling out crypto wallets to 1,000 people on its 1.6 million-strong waitlist. Mastercard struck an NFT payments deal with Coinbase amid a wave of recent crypto partnerships. Meta is working on plans to allow users to create and sell non-fungible tokens as Facebook’s parent company seeks to join the rush of companies trying to capitalize on the digital collectible craze.
As markets remain uncooperative, with high multiple growth stocks well off their highs, a very subdued tax loss related January effect, and many market observers positioning for stock indices to roll over another 10-20% from here, WonderFi (WNDR-NEO) increased its previously announced bought deal public offering to $45 million from $35 million. Ayre Ventures completed a follow-on investment in Mijem (Sophic Client, MJEM-CSE). Well regarded VC, Bill Gurley highlighted Shopify’s Shop Pay as a big winner of Christmas 2021. The Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to force more transparency from big private companies, as regulators grow concerned about the lack of oversight of private fundraising. The most anticipated IPOs in 2022, include: eToro, Stripe, Discord, Databricks, InstaCart, Klarna, Impossible Foods, according to Business Insider. Sequoia Capital and Paradigm, a venture capital firm focussing on cryptocurrency investments, will invest US$1.15 billion in Citadel Securities, a Chicago trading firm founded in 2001. Citadel Securities trades equities, bonds, options, and other assets. The company says it handles 27% of the equities trading volume in the United States. Videogame giant Take-Two Interactive agreed to buy mobile game maker Zynga for US$12.7 billion in cash and stock, ending Zynga’s 10-year run as a public company. Apple may push back its mixed reality headset debut to 2023, Bloomberg reports. Apple reportedly planned to reveal the device at June’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) ahead of a retail launch later this year. TikTok’s advertising sales for 2021 stood at US$4 billion in 2021, and the video app is now aiming to generate US$12 billion in revenue this year, Chinese online media outlet LatePost reported.
The first holiday shortened, yet volatile, first week of 2022 trading was off to a slow start in Canada, but there was plenty of action in the USA. Another data point suggested that the final numbers for 2021 venture capital investments pointed to a whopper of a year. Crunchbase reported that global venture funding nearly doubled last year to US$643 billion compared to 2020, due diligence was a casualty in light of increased funding, according to various reports. San Francisco-based social-media company Reddit Inc. has picked Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to help it go public as soon as March. OpenSea, one of the most talked about blockchain start-ups in Silicon Valley, said on Tuesday that it had raised US$300 million in new venture capital, making it the latest company to cash in on a rush to fund cryptocurrency start-ups. Banking app Dave shares rose 9% in public listing after SPAC merger. Tencent raised US$3 billion in Sea share trade. If all the rumors are correct, 2022 is the year when Apple will finally introduce its own mixed reality headset. Technology analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple’s headset will be released in late 2022 with limited supplies. Qualcomm and Microsoft are teaming up on an augmented reality initiative. Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. has ceased development of a new VR/AR software operating system that employed more than 300 after four years, The Information reported Wednesday. Facebook has never regularly disclosed sales data for Oculus, which it acquired in 2014 for US$2 billion. But IDC estimates that unit sales of the company’s VR devices in 2021 will come in between 5.3 million and 6.8 million. Either one would be a nice jump from the 3.5 million Oculus units estimated to have sold last year. And it is far better than the anemic sales from before the company put out its first Quest headset in mid-2019. Oculus devices before that mostly required a cable running to a high-powered PC. Such “tethers” have severely limited the appeal of VR devices even to the gamer crowd.
In a historic year for valuations, League‘s new funding round has squeezed in one more Canadian tech unicorn before the clock struck midnight on 2021. The Toronto-based healthcare startup raised US$70 million in new financing, which at a pre-money valuation of US$850 million, or $1.1 billion, made it Canada’s newest tech unicorn. New Zealand-based accounting platform Xero has reached a deal to acquire Calgary tax preparation software startup TaxCycle for a total of $75 million. A record 560 startups were valued at over US$1 billion this year, earning their place in the so-called “unicorn” club, according to a report from Business Insider citing data from Crunchbase and PitchBook. The term unicorn was first coined in 2013. At the time, there were just 39 U.S. startups that fit the bill, with an average of four unicorn births per year in the decade prior. Today there are approximately 1,000 private companies around the world valued at US$1 billion or more. Those companies are estimated to be worth a total of roughly US$3 trillion, per Crunchbase data. Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. rose 0.8% in morning trading Monday, after China’s securities regulator’s draft rules on overseas listings released over the long weekend OK’d the listing structure known as variable-interest entity (VIE) used by the e-commerce giant to list its shares on the NYSE. Facebook’s Oculus VR app marked a key milestone over the Christmas weekend, when it was the most popular download on Apple’s App Store. The Oculus app beat out long-standing leaders like TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram for having the most downloads. This marks the first time ever the Oculus app was No. 1 on Christmas.
Thank you for your support through 2021, we hope you and your loved ones are enjoying a restful holiday season. Canadian software firm, Dye & Durham Ltd. soared as much as 21% after reaching a deal to buy Australian data services firm Link Administration Holdings Ltd. for about $3.2 billion. Sophic Client, GameSquare Esports (GSQ-CSE, GMSQ-OTC), a stock we recently called out as a tax loss buying candidate, had a nice move (gaining ~35%) last week, as the Company’s execs were profiled in Business Insider. China Mobile, the wireless carrier that was among the state-owned firms forced to delist from the U.S. by the Trump administration for alleged ties to the Chinese military, is seeking to raise the equivalent of US$7.6 billion in a Shanghai initial public offering. It would be the biggest domestic IPO in a decade, according to Bloomberg. The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday that electric vehicle maker Nikola will pay US$125 million to settle charges that it misled investors about its products. Subscription-based streaming video services worldwide spent nearly US$50 billion on content in 2021, an uptick of 20% from last year, according to new data released by research firm Ampere Analysis. Venture capital invested a record US$30 billion in crypto in 2021, more than quadruple previous high, this comes as Apple, among other tech companies is quickly losing talent to lucrative crypto startups. Semi CapEx to hit US$152 billion in 2021 as market on track for US$2 trillion by 2035. TSMC, the world’s largest foundry, intended to spend between US$25 billion and US$35 billion on new manufacturing capacities as demand for its services is setting records.