Markross121_ No Comments

How Government guidelines are getting UK firms back to business safely

As the restrictions of lockdown have begun to ease, many more of us are returning to the workplace. To help companies get back up and running as safely as possible, the Government has put together Covid-19 secure guidelines.

If you and your staff can’t work from home and do need to return to the workplace to do your job, employers have been introducing a range of measures to reduce the risk of infection.

Government guidelines

These include cleaning, hand washing and an increase in hygiene procedures, with hand sanitisers around the workplace. Workspaces are cleaned and disinfected more regularly, with emphasis on regularly touched surfaces.

Social distancing guidelines (2m) should also be maintained wherever possible and signage acts as a useful reminder.

It’s also recommended that workers don’t share workstations and visitors should be seen by appointment only.

What’s more, the Government recommends that companies adapt staggered arrival and departure times, and employees avoid public transport if possible (see above).

Meet two UK businesses who’ve started their journey back to work, adopting the Government’s Covid-19 guidelines…

Hampton Printing, Bristol

Mike Malpas lives and breathes print. An account director at family-run Hampton Printing near Bristol, his day-to-day job involves high-end print clients. Not only is he usually on the road meeting people, he spends time on the shop floor and manages a team – and wanted to get back to work quickly.

“Our clients still need things printed and this can’t be done from home,” he explains. His company is currently working with the NHS to deliver potentially life-saving materials, as well as Rolls-Royce, among others.

Hampton Printing’s 32,000 square foot space is already a clean, dust-free environment, but the entire workspace had to be altered to ensure it is Covid-19-ready and safe for staff returning to work. Out of its 56 staff, 20 have now returned to work, including Malpas.

Reduced staff numbers help social distancing and, in every area of the business, there is hand sanitation, and signage about social distancing rules. Doors are also kept open so nobody touches the handles.

Hampton Printing also sanitises any paper that is delivered, then leaves it for six hours before printing to maintain high hygiene standards. The company has also retained two full-time cleaners who clean every single work surface on a daily basis.

“These measures make us all feel safe,” Malpas explains. “It feels great to be back at work and getting into a routine again.”

Read more – www.independent.co.uk

Markross121_ No Comments

Hedge fund criticises ‘unjust’ takeover bid for Sirius Minerals

Crispin Odey’shedge fund has attacked Anglo-American’s “unjust” takeover bid for Sirius Minerals, saying the £405m offer does not represent a fair price for shareholders in the troubled fertiliser miner.

Odey Asset Management, which owns 1.3% of Sirius, said it would vote against the mining giant’s 5.5p-a-share bid for the company, which plans to dig the UK’s first deep mine in 40 years under the North York moors.

In an open letter to Anglo’s boss, Mark Cutifani, and Chris Fraser, the chief executive of Sirius, the London-based fund argued that Anglo had stopped short of making a “final” offer so that it could raise its bid to see off any potential counter bid for the company.

Odey said it believed Anglo would be willing to “bid substantially more” for Sirius if a counter bid for the company emerged, which it said proved that the existing offer did not represent a fair price for the company.

 

“It is Odey’s belief that Anglo American’s current offer does not represent fair value for shareholders in Sirius,” said the letter, which was signed by Odey’s fund manager, Henry Steel. The hedge fund said it would vote against any offer that was not final or that was less than 7p a share.

The existing takeover offer would wipe out the investments of thousands of small shareholders, but it still won the support of the Sirius chairman, Russell Scrimshaw. He said last month it was “the only viable proposal” to save the company’s multibillion-pound project to develop the Woodsmith fertiliser mine under the North York moors.

 

Read More – www.theguardian.com

Markross121_ No Comments

OneTrust doubles valuation to $2.7B as consumer data laws go global

Global data privacy laws are quickly minting a new sector in software.

Privacy tech startup OneTrust has raised $210 million in a Series B led by Coatue and Insight Partners. The round values the company at $2.7 billion, just eight months after it raised a $200 million Series A at a $1.3 billion valuation.

OneTrust, based in Atlanta and London, is part of a cohort of startups capitalizing on the growing demands that privacy regulations are placing on businesses. Europe’s GDPR set off a cascade of regulatory efforts around privacy, and the California Consumer Privacy Act took effect this year. Similar efforts are being implemented or considered in other US states and around the world.

OneTrust isn’t the only startup to find itself suddenly flush with cash to tackle privacy concerns. San Jose-based Securiti.ai raised $81 million within a year of launching, and fellow data governance firms AvePoint and TrustArc also recently secured large financing rounds.

“This is a space that didn’t really exist four years ago,” said Alan Dabbiere, OneTrust chairman and the founder and former chairman of AirWatch. The significant war chest will allow OneTrust to build its offerings through acquisitions; last year, the startup snapped up two privacy businesses.

The money also demonstrates to potential customers that OneTrust is credible and viable, said Dabbiere. Those characteristics are vital to winning the kinds of large contracts with multinational organizations that the company is targeting.

“The market really rewards platforms,” Dabbiere said. “We are really the first true platform in privacy.” OneTrust says it has grown to 1,500 employees serving 5,000 customers around the world, including nearly half of the Fortune 500, in less than four years.

As demonstrated by the record $5 billion fine imposed on Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission last year, the cost of violating consumer privacy is higher than ever. But even as compliance becomes more stringent, Dabbiere believes that companies’ desire for customer data is only growing. However, they also want to manage that data responsibly and avoid relying on major tech firms to obtain it.

Wherever the fear of regulation meets the desire for data is an opportunity for privacy-focused companies. “What you’ve got is CEOs that have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, saying ‘I want to get closer [to customers], but I don’t want to risk my business.’ And I think this is really what’s driving our business,” said Dabbiere.

Markross121_ No Comments

European VC enters mega-fund land as Atomico closes on $820 million

Europe’s ever-growing startup ecosystem is prompting venture capitalists to raise ever-larger war chests.

The latest is Atomico, the London-based firm created by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, whose team on Tuesday unveiled a final close on $820 million for its fifth fund, a record-setting haul on the heels of a historic year for the European venture market.

Atomico’s new fund marks the largest for an independent venture firm based in Europe, which saw an all-time high of $11.2 billion in VC fundraising industrywide last year, according to PitchBook data. And the typical fund is getting bigger, with the median size rising to an unprecedented $105 million, a trend that is fueling larger funding rounds for startups in Europe and the US alike. European firms Northzone Ventures and Balderton Capital raised $500 million and $400 million funds respectively in late 2019.

For Atomico, the new vehicle is $55 million bigger than its predecessor, Fund IV, which in 2017 hauled in $765 million in the aftermath of the UK’s historic referendum to leave the European Union. The early-stage firm has backed companies like mobile-game developer Supercell, artificial-intelligence specialist Graphcore, and payment platform Klarna.

Atomico partner Hiro Tamura said that despite the bigger fund size, the firm’s strategy remains the same as its fourth fund, albeit serving a European VC market that is more crowded than in past years.

“There will be more competition and there will be more people vying for similar returns,” Tamura said. “I think we will continue to occupy what I think is a very effective zone for us, that is Series A and late venture rounds.”

Atomico acts as lead investor in Europe with a remit that also extends to the US, where it acts as a co-investor. Its new fund, first announced in 2018, also will write checks for Series B and C deals.

Tamura said Atomico’s strategy is to bet on startups in both business and consumer markets, including investments related to payments platforms and deep tech. Its new fund has already started to deploy capital, investing in startups such as diagnostics provider Kheiron Medical, employee-retention specialist Peakon and sales-software platform Automation Hero.

 

Read More – www.pitchbook.com

Markross121_ No Comments

10 big things: Blue Apron, HQ Trivia move on to Plan B

Blue Apron set out to transform the way people eat. HQ Trivia wanted to build the future of TV. Both companies financed their dreams by raising a lot of money from some of venture capital’s biggest names. And for a while, both companies seemed on the brink of breaking through.

But startup life can be fickle. Gradually, the early success gave way not to failure, but to what’s in some ways worse: irrelevance. And when the next-big-thing buzz wore off, both Blue Apron and HQ Trivia were confronted with the realization that their original plans for supremacy might need a major adjustment.

Blue Apron is publicly seeking a buyer, and HQ Trivia has apparently risen from the dead after a raucous, live-streamed funeral. The existential angst emanating from a pair of former Silicon Valley darlings is one of 10 things you need to know from the past week:

1. Cooks and questions

I’ve written before in some length about the turbulent times at Blue Apron, a company that encapsulates the venture capital world’s brief infatuation with meal-kit delivery startups. This week, along with its Q4 earnings, the company announced it is evaluating strategic options, including a potential merger or outright sale.

Once valued at $2 billion by VCs, life has gotten much tougher for Blue Apron since a 2017 IPO. The company has never turned an annual profit—although it did cut its losses by nearly half from 2018 to 2019, dropping from $122.1 million to $61.1 million—and revenue has been steadily shrinking.

In addition to revealing new financial numbers and plans to sniff around a sale, Blue Apron also announced the closure of a fulfillment center this week. The combination was enough to send the company’s stock price plummeting even further. It closed Friday with a market cap of less than $40 million, meaning its valuation has declined by more than 98% from its VC-backed high point.

If Blue Apron is able to find a buyer, two obvious options might be an established grocery chain or a larger food-delivery company. Those were the routes taken by some of Blue Apron’s former rivals in recent years: Fellow meal-kit startup Plated sold itself to Albertsons, while Home Chef was acquired by Kroger and Maple was gobbled up by Deliveroo.

Talks of an acquisition were also at the root of HQ Trivia’s recent drama.

The startup burst onto the scene in 2017 with its joke-filled, live-streamed trivia games, where users could win money by correctly answering an increasingly difficult slate of questions. The next year, it raised $15 million in a round reportedly led by Founders Fund, valuing the company at $100 million, according to PitchBook data.

Co-founder Rus Yusupov, who previously co-founded Vine, took to the pages of The New York Times to proclaim HQ Trivia’s “ambitions to essentially build the future of TV.” But instead, viewers slowly began to drift away, and funding dried up.

On Valentine’s Day, Yusupov reportedly sent a memo to workers announcing that a planned acquisition had fallen through and that HQ Trivia would cease operations that day. That night, HQ Trivia broadcast what was purportedly its last episode ever, replete with f-bombs, spraying champagne, complaints about high-priced dog food, and statements from host Matt Richards like, “Why are we shutting down? I don’t know. Ask our investors.”

But Monday morning brought a twist. Yusupov tweeted that after a “busy weekend,” he’d found a new buyer for HQ Trivia that wanted to keep the company up and running. Employees and fans are surely trying not to dwell on a succeeding tweet from Yusupov admitting that it’s “[n]ot a done deal yet.”

No matter what happens, we haven’t heard the last of the story. The Hollywood Reporter indicated Friday that The Ringer is planning a new podcast charting the trivia company’s rise and fall.

Today, neither Blue Apron nor HQ Trivia is where they hoped they would be back in 2017. One could go so far as to say recent events at the companies have been disastrous. But the fact remains that both have been more successful than, I don’t know, 97% of all startups that get up and running. Creating a sustainable company is really hard. Almost everyone fails. And almost everyone fails long before the point of making national headlines or reaching a unicorn valuation.

And who knows: Maybe new ownership is all Blue Apron and HQ Trivia need to mount wholesale turnarounds. The past week, though, brought plenty of reason for pessimism.

Grocery shopping may very well be transformed in the coming years, and a new future of TV may be built. But I don’t think Blue Apron and HQ Trivia will be the ones doing it.

Read More – www.pitchbook.com

Markross121_ No Comments

Optiv confirms ‘temporary’ UK closure and turns attention to M&A

Security giant says it is still committed to European expansion

US-based MSSP Optiv has confirmed what it called a “downsizing” of its UK operation, claiming the move is temporary as it turns its attention to M&A.

CRN reported yesterday that Optiv was in the process of shutting down in the UK, keeping on a handful of staff to continue any outstanding customer transactions.

 

In a statement Optiv called the move “temporary”, insisting that it still has plans to build a presence in Europe and has looked at 40 European businesses to acquire before deciding it “simply couldn’t justify the high valuations of these companies”.

“After a comprehensive strategic review, we’re temporarily downsizing our London-based organic operations,” Optiv said.

“We remain committed to serving the European market, clients, partners and prospects,” it added, claiming it could acquire “once European valuations right-size”.

Optiv’s CMO had previously said that the firm looked at acquiring the likes of SecureData and SecureLink, opting against making a bid because it thought the pair were overvalued.

SecureData was bought last year for a multiple of 20 times its EBITDA.

Micky Patel – partner at August Equity, which sold SecureData to Orange – told CRN earlier this year that the multiple was achieved because SecureData was unique in that it was a cybersecurity service provider that had scaled.

A panel of private equity investors also told delegates at CRN‘s Channel Conference MSP that they believe high multiples are here to stay.

 

Read More – www.channelweb.co.uk

Markross121_ No Comments

Yahoo Japan and Line set to merge

Japan’s biggest search engine and messaging app are set to merge under a deal agreed by their parent companies.

Yahoo Japan is the country’s biggest search engine, and has e-commerce and online banking subsidiaries.

Line is the country’s dominant messaging app, and is also popular in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

Analysts say the merger will help the companies compete with Japan’s other online giants.

Yahoo Japan has long offered a diverse range of services but has lagged behind many of its competitors, said Seijiro Takeshita, from the University of Shizuoka.

“This will be a very big headache and threat to the players like NTT Docomo and Rakuten,” he said.

Big in Japan

While Google is the predominant search engine in the US and Europe, Yahoo is Japan’s most popular search engine.

More than 50 million people visit Yahoo Japan’s website every month.

Yahoo Japan is no longer linked to its US namesake, which sold its remaining stake in the company in 2018.

Line, which is owned by South Korean company Naver, has roughly 80 million users in Japan and a similar number in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

The app itself is perhaps best known for cartoonish stickers, a feature which its competitors have also adopted.

In recent years, Yahoo Japan’s parent company, Softbank, has bet billions on primarily Asian-based tech companies.

The deal could also make it a dominant player in the payments market in Japan.

Softbank already has its own payment service PayPay.

With this deal, it will scoop up Linepay, which is used by many of its competitors.

“I think there will be a lot of game-changing issues that will go on,” said Mr Takeshita.

 

Read More- www.bbc.co.uk

Markross121_ No Comments

Virgin Galactic wins space tourism race to float on stock market

Sir Richard Branson beat Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos by listing his venture in New York.

 

Publicity-hungry billionaires must have a space venture, and here’s Sir Richard Branson’s: Virgin Galactic is now a stock market-listed company with a $2.4bn valuation. Actual space tourists won’t depart until next year, but Branson has beaten Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in getting his business floated in New York.

Galactic, despite the whizzy-looking planes, is quite a simple financial bet. It’s a punt that multimillionaires can be persuaded in droves to part with $250,000 – the price of a ticket to ride from New Mexico to 50 miles above the Earth’s surface and back. Galactic is projecting revenues of $590m and top-line earnings of $270m in 2023, by which time it expects to have flown 3,242 passengers. Who are they all supposed to be?

The marketing pitch is that a trip on Galactic makes for a more entertaining holiday for the super-rich than a tootle around the Med on a floating gin palace. A Philip Green-style cruiser costs $500,000 a week to hire, apparently. And a private island comes in at $230,000 a week, according to Branson’s crew, who presumably have the inside track on Necker’s rental rates. Thus Galactic, according to the grim prose in the listing documents, “offers a unique value proposition relative to comparably priced ultra luxury travel and transportation experiences”.

 

Read More – www.theguardian.com

Markross121_ No Comments

These firms are keying 2019’s record rate of add-ons

Private equity firms are living in the age of the add-on.

Through the first nine months of the year, add-ons to existing portfolio companies accounted for 68% of all private equity investments in the US—the highest annual rate on record—according to PitchBook’s 3Q 2019 US PE Breakdown. With deal multiples spiking across the broader buyout market, this inorganic growth is one of the few ways left for investors to find the potential for value creation to which they’ve grown accustomed.

As with every investment trend, some firms have embraced the strategy more fully than others. In ascending order, here’s a look at the six investors who have been most active in the US add-on market during 2019, according to PitchBook data, along with a rundown of the sorts of deals they’ve been getting done:

T-5. Insight Partners—30 add-ons

Until earlier this year, Insight Partners was known as Insight Venture Partners. That’s reflective of how the firm differs from most of the other firms on this list. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on buyouts and other private equity deals, Insight operates across a much broader segment of the private investment spectrum. It’s just as well known for its venture deals (or perhaps more so) as it is for conducting control investments.

But those control investments are still a major part of its strategy. And this year, it’s led to a spate of add-ons for a number of different portfolio companies, with a seeming focus on deploying new types of software across a range of sectors.

One example is Community Brands, a creator of software for nonprofits and other well-meaning organizations, which earlier this year announced three add-ons in a single day. Another is Enverus, which changed its name from Drillinginfo in August. The developer of software and data analytics for the energy sector has been busy building out its suite of services, acquiring one company that provides maps of the Permian Basin in March and another that makes billing and revenue software for the oil sector in July.

T-5. Harvest Partners—30

Harvest Partners, a New York-based firm that’s been making private equity investments since 1981, has taken a more diverse approach to its add-on activity in 2019, with no single portfolio company dominating its dealmaking.

In recent weeks, it’s been busy with Integrity Marketing Group, a distributor of life and health insurance that Harvest bought into alongside existing backer HGGC in August. (Of note to some, surely, is the fact that the chairman of Integrity’s board is Steve Young, the NFL hall of famer who’s also a co-founder of HGGC). Integrity was already on an add-on binge before Harvest entered the picture, and it’s kept it up in the meantime, acquiring four different insurance marketing companies in October alone, per PitchBook data.

The co-investor relationship with HGGC isn’t rare for Harvest. Some of its other portfolio companies that have been busy conducting add-ons this year are also examples of Harvest investing alongside fellow firms, including recycling specialist Valet Living (which it backs along with Ares Management) and insurance brokerage Acrisure (both Blackstone and Partners Group). That likely lightens some of the sourcing, diligence and dealmaking loads.

 

Read More – www.pitchbook.com

Markross121_ No Comments

Vauxhall fears after car giants Fiat and PSA announce merger

Fiat Chrysler is to merge with Vauxhall’s owner PSA to create the world’s fourth largest car company.

The two sides say they have yet to finalise all the details, but the 50-50 merger is expected to provide significant cost savings.

That has raised concerns at Vauxhall, which employs 3,000 people in the UK, as it could be vulnerable to any restructuring.

Unions called for talks with France’s PSA, which owns Peugeot and Citroen.

Fiat Chrysler, the Italian-US business behind Jeep, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati, has been looking for a big tie-up for years, believing that consolidation in the global industry is needed to cuts costs and overcapacity, and fund investment in electric vehicles.

It has tried previously to form alliances with General Motors and Renault.

A combined Fiat Chrysler-PSA will have a market value of about $50bn (£39.9bn) with annual sales of 8.7 million vehicles. The companies said there are no plans to shut factories, but UK unions are uneasy about the impact on Vauxhall.

“Merger talks combined with Brexit uncertainty is deeply unsettling for Vauxhall’s UK workforce which is one of the most efficient in Europe,” said Unite national officer Des Quinn.

“The fact remains, merger or not, if PSA wants to use a great British brand like Vauxhall to sell cars and vans in the UK, then it has to make them here in the UK.”

 

Read More – www.bbc.co.uk