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JD Sports’ Footasylum takeover could be bad for shoppers, says CMA

The UK’s competition watchdog has said JD Sports’ £90m deal to buy its smaller rival Footasylum could result in higher prices and that it will carry out an investigation unless JD can address its concerns.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its initial investigation found the deal could result in a “substantial lessening of competition”.

The CMA is concerned this could result in a worse deal for shoppers through higher prices, reduced choice or worsening customer service. “JD Sports must now address the concerns identified or face a further, more in-depth investigation,” it said.

Colin Raftery, a senior director at the CMA, said: “JD Sports is already by far the largest player in the growing sports fashion sector, so any deal that results in it buying up one of its closest competitors could clearly give cause for concern.

“Our investigation has shown us that JD Sports and Footasylum have been competing strongly across the UK, with a sports fashion offering that few other retailers are able to match.”

Peter Cowgill, JD Sports’ executive chair, said: “We continue to believe that Footasylum would be a positive addition to the group, bringing a differentiated customer demographic and fashion-led product range that is complementary to our existing business.

“We also believe that there will be significant operational and strategic benefits from a combination of the two businesses. Our discussions with the CMA are ongoing as we consider whether to proceed to phase two or if acceptable remedies can be agreed at this stage.”


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Flutter shares jump 14 per cent on £11bn merger with Stars Group to create one of the world’s largest gambling firms

Flutter Entertainment and Nasdaq- and Toronto-listed Stars Group said today they were merging in a deal that will create one of the world’s largest gambling businesses.

Shareholders in Flutter, formerly known as Paddy Power Betfair, will own approximately 54.6 per cent of the new company with Stars shareholders owning approximately 45.3 per cent of the combined group.

The combined revenue of the two businesses in 2018 was £3.8bn and their combined market capitalisation is £11bn, enough to make it one of the world’s largest online betting and gaming operators globally.

The new business will be based in Dublin, with a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange and a secondary listing on Euronext Dublin.

Flutter shares jumped nearly 14 per cent this morning to 8,700p.

News of the deal also boosted other gambling stocks, with William Hill up 3.65 per cent, 888 Holdings up 1.8 per cent and GVC Holdings up nearly one per cent.


The two businesses said the merger would help the combined group crack the US market which is liberalising its gambling rules.

The pair said the deal would create value for shareholders with pre-tax cost-synergies of £140m per annum along with lower finance costs.

Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson will be chief executive of the combined group with Flutter chair Gary McGann taking the role of chair.

Flutter has entered into third-party deals in the US with Fox Sports, Fastball Holdings and Boyd Interactive Gaming conditional on the merger going ahead.


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PE mega-funds have higher floors and lower ceilings than smaller vehicles

Private equity mega-funds (of at least $5 billion) have tended to outperform smaller funds over the past 20 years. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as mega-funds are only raised by firms that have outperformed over time.

At least for private equity, the biggest firms are almost by definition some of the best firms, at least perception-wise, since they had to justify their growth to LPs over several funds. Not every top-performing firm opts to grow that large—but the ones that do go on to raise mega-funds give themselves good odds of maintaining performance as they grow.

Our recent PitchBook analyst note dives into performance metrics for $5 billion-plus PE funds and how they differ from the rest of the market. TVPI figures—which reflect a fund’s investment multiple—suggest that mega-funds hit more doubles than the rest of the market, but also fewer home runs. For example, across several vintage buckets, mega-funds have a higher chance than smaller-sized funds to achieve a TVPI of at least 1.5x. That’s great news for larger LPs looking for consistently positive returns.


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Robots are ready to sort our trash, but will VCs be interested in the messy world of recycling?

You finish a greasy-yet-satisfying lunch at the cafeteria, pick up the items from the table and walk to the trash and recycling bins. Like most well-intentioned people, you face a familiar dilemma. Used napkins. Leftover ketchup packets. A foam container. Wait, there’s food stuck on it. Where do they all go? Is anyone watching? Help.

We’ve all been there. And our three-second plight is part of an expensive problem that’s only piling up by the minute.

China took the world by surprise last year when it started banning imports on dozens of kinds of solid waste, including some plastics and other recyclables. The maximum acceptable contamination level in plastics and fiber also dropped to 0.5% in China, making it nearly impossible for recycling facilities around the world to quickly process sizable volumes of scrap.

The impact of those changes has been devastating, and for many private waste management companies in the US, plastic recycling is no longer a viable market. Like any other business, a recycling company needs to efficiently use available resources and have a healthy bottom line. The soaring cost of recycling has forced many local governments across the US and recycling processors to send increasing amounts of waste to landfills or incinerators.

Even in this dire situation, many environmentalists and entrepreneurs believe there’s a silver lining. China’s bold move has forced countries throughout the world to acknowledge green issues and push innovative recycling ideas toward tangible and long-term investments.

While humans could single-handedly choke our planet with waste, we may need some help to clean up the mess. Enter the robots.

One of the crucial steps in contributing toward a circular economy begins with correctly classifying what can and cannot be recycled. Even something as straightforward as a coffee cup could be complicated during disposal. Its light-weight plastic lid, paper cup and cardboard holder may appear to be recyclable components, but rules might be different for a sorting facility if it’s made of virgin tree fiber rather than paper or if it’s contaminated with leftover whipped cream.

Charles Yhap, who co-founded CleanRobotics in 2015, realized there might be a better way to sort trash than to expect high levels of awareness, accuracy and motivation from human beings—especially when recycling laws can be confusing and vary from county to county. The Pittsburgh-based company has developed an AI-powered robot called TrashBot that helps automate the separation process at the point of disposal.

“The idea was born out of frustration, of being confronted with an array of trash bins,” Yhap told PitchBook. “Waste management processes are either dirty, dull or dangerous, and it makes sense to target robotics in this industry.”

TrashBot uses cameras and sensors to scan discarded items from everyday waste—and that doesn’t mean it conveniently tosses an unfinished can of soda straight to the bin bound for the landfill. These robots can “swallow” excess liquids. CleanRobotics is focusing on high-traffic facilities such as airports, convention centers and schools, but one challenge is its technology requires waste to be thrown away one item at a time with a short delay in between. The company is backed by investors including GAN Ventures, SOSV and Innovation Works.