Archive for the ‘Principal Investing’ Category

Angry Bird Creator (Android) Raises $42mm in Seed Capital

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The latest phone app craze is the game “Angry Birds,” a popular pastime for android users across the globe.  It was developed by Finnish company, Rovio, and is played by over $40 million users per month. The game description on the Android app website reads: “Use the unique powers of the Angry Birds to destroy the greedy pigs’ fortresses! The survival of the Angry Birds is at stake. Dish out revenge on the greedy pigs who stole their eggs. Use the unique powers of each bird to destroy the pigs’ fortresses. Angry Birds features challenging physics-based game-play and hours of replay value. Each of the 225 levels requires logic, skill, and force to solve.”  Is this Company the next Zynga?  Who knows…I questioned Farmville when it came out as well.

Rovio, the tiny Finnish company behiind the iPhone, iPad and Android app Angry Birds, says it has raised $42 million from investors.

The game, consisting of angry birds shot at bewildered-looking pigs, is played by 40 million users every month, the Wall Street Journal said today. its fans, according to Daily Mail, include UK prime minister David Cameron, and Aussie leader Julia Gillard.

The funding round was co-led by venture capital firm Accel Partners, known for working with fast-growing companies such as Facebook. Also involved was the venture capital firm Atomico Ventures, created by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom.

It is part of an “aggressive expansion mode” that Rovio’s co-founder and chief executive Mikael Hed said will make the company an “important entertainment media company for the future”.

Although he would not say what projects the company was working on, or how big of a share of the company was sold, Mr Hed reportedly told TV-industry website C21media.net that Rovio was looking at plans to make a broadcast cartoon version of Angry Birds.

“We will strengthen the position of Rovio and continue building our franchises in gaming, merchandising and broadcast media. Our next big thing is to execute superbly well on our strategy,” Mr Hed said in the article today.

Rovio has all ready been building on Angry Birds’ success with franchise products such as soft toys, which have sold more than 2 milion units.

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HCA IPO Rises 4% on Day Dow Falls 228 Points

Friday, March 11th, 2011

HCA Holdings rose about 4.0% in its first day of trading.  This was very impressive, considering the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 228 points in the same day (3/10/11).  The Dow fell in response to increasing jobless claims, a larger U.S. trade deficit, a larger Chinese trade deficit, and a lower GDP revision in Japan on 3/9/11.  Luckily, HCA was unaffected, which reflects both the strength of the company and its balance sheet.  HCA represents such a large share of the U.S. hospital industry, that institutional money managers probably could not refuse to purchase the security for their portfolios.  HCA’s public competitors include CYH – Community Health Systems and THC – Tenet Healthcare Corp.

According to Bloomberg, “HCA Holdings Inc., the largest publicly traded hospital chain in the U.S., rose 3.9 percent on its first day of trading after completing a record $3.79 billion, private equity-backed initial public offering.

Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA increased $1.15 to $31.15 at 1:16 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, even as rising U.S. jobless claims drove the Dow Jones Industrial Index down 137 points. HCA’s offering sold more than 126 million shares at $30 each, the top of the proposed price range, the company said yesterday in a statement.

The IPO’s performance on a day when the market is falling reflects both the strength of HCA’s balance sheet and the momentum in favor of private equity-backed deals being brought to market, said Josef Schuster, founder of IPOX Schuster LLC in Chicago. There’s “plenty of liquidity available” for large U.S. deals like this one, he said.

“The deal underlines the level of confidence among large- cap managers about these type of private equity deals and the for-profit hospital space,” Schuster said in a telephone interview today. “Even with no dividend, investors like the level of cash with this company.”

For-profit hospitals will benefit as last year’s U.S. health overhaul forces consolidation and cost cutting that may leave non-profit competitors at a disadvantage, said Les Funtleyder, an analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. Investors are also expecting HCA to be added to stock-trading indexes and buying ahead of that, he said.

Blue-Chip Name

“People look at HCA as a blue-chip name in a space they want to get involved in,” said Mark Bronzo, who helps manage $25 billion at Security Global Investors in Irvington, New York, in a telephone interview today. “There just aren’t a lot of names to choose from there.”

For-profit hospital chains such as HCA depend more on commercial payers and less on government beneficiaries than do nonprofits, which have already seen their revenue reduced by government cutbacks, particularly in Medicaid.

HCA competitors among for-profit hospitals include Community Health Systems Inc. (CYH) in Franklin, Tennessee, and Tenet Healthcare Corp. (THC) in Dallas.

HCA’s offering exceeded the Feb. 10 initial stock sale by Houston-based energy-pipeline company Kinder Morgan Inc., which raised $3.3 billion. Private equity-backed IPOs in the U.S. have gotten a boost this year as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rallied to the highest level since June 2008, raising investors’ interest in companies acquired through debt-fueled takeovers.

‘Warmer Climate’

“We have a market that’s more willing to take on risk,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management in Richmond, Virginia, which oversees $52.5 billion. “This is a much better, much warmer climate for this type of offering.”

The underwriters may exercise an overallotment option to buy as many as 18.9 million additional shares within 30 days, the company said. HCA sold 87.7 million shares, while existing investors sold 38.5 million.

Companies owned by private equity investors have accounted for 80 percent of the funds raised in U.S. IPOs since the beginning of the year, and the shares have gained 10 percent on average through yesterday, compared with 4.8 percent for companies not owned by leveraged buyout firms, Bloomberg data show.

KKR and Bain

KKR & Co., Bain Capital LLC, Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and other owners invested about $5 billion in equity in the $33 billion takeover of HCA. Including debt, it was the largest leveraged buyout at the time.

In acquiring HCA, KKR and Bain chose a company with steady cash flow and a business that’s protected to a large extent from swings in the economy. Cash flow from operations was $3.16 billion in the year before the 2006 buyout, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. As of Dec. 31, 2010, that number was little changed at $3.09 billion.

The company offered as many as 124 million shares at $27 to $30 apiece, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America and Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. of New York led HCA’s sale. HCA said it will use the proceeds to repay debt.”

The following links will take you to previous articles we wrote on HCA:

http://leverageacademy.com/blog/2010/04/11/hca-could-have-3-billion-ipo-4-years-after-kkr-bain-buyout/

http://leverageacademy.com/blog/2011/03/04/2310/ – KKR & Bain to IPO HCA at $30/share

Check out our intensive investment banking, private equity, and sales & trading courses! The discount code Merger34299 will be activated until April 15, 2011. Questions? Feel free to e-mail thomas.r[at]leverageacademy.com with your inquiries or call our corporate line.


TPG’s Bonderman Sees Mega LBO Coming – $10-15B Deal

Friday, March 4th, 2011

David Bonderman, the founder of TPG, claims that large deals are back, and they are back to stay.  Fueled by cheap credit and impatient investors, mega LBOs will return, and according to him, TPG will be at the forefront.  TPG has not been shy of these deals in the past, leading the $44 billion takeover of TXU with Goldman Sachs and KKR in 2007.  Surprisingly, investor memories are short, and the same leverage multiples and weak capital structures we saw in 2006 are emerging today in the private equity industry.  As takeover multiples rise, so will leverage.  And funny thing is, banks are willing to provide it more than ever.

“Larger deals are back,” Mr. Bonderman said Thursday at the SuperReturn conference in Berlin. “It is as I said before absolutely possible to do a 10-to-15-billion-dollar deal now. It might not be one you want to do. It might not be one you should do. But the capital is available.”

Recent private equity deals have been valued at $5 billion or less, a far cry from those of the 2006-2007 buyout boom. Indeed, in 2007 TPG teamed up with KKR and Goldman Sachs to buy the energy company TXU for $44 billion.

But money for private equity deals dried up in the financial crisis and the recovery so far has brought only smaller deals.

Among those deals is the $3 billion leveraged buyout of the preppy retailer J. Crew by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners, a deal that  was approved by the company’s shareholders this week.

Along with larger deals, Mr. Bonderman and other private equity executives at the SuperReturn conference were all abuzz about the potential of emerging markets.

Mr. Bonderman called emerging markets the “flavor of the month” and predicted that initial public offerings in emerging markets would represent an even larger proportion of the deals in years to come.

“Interesting enough, if you survey folks like all of us in this room, everybody sees emerging markets growing just about as fast as mature markets in the deal business, which of course has never been the case before now,” Mr. Bonderman said, adding that the upside potential for deals remained high.

Growth in emerging markets is being fueled by China’s booming economy, which could even be on the verge of a bubble, as well as broader trends, including the rise of the middle class in those regions, Mr. Bonderman said.

“Even Brazil is a China story,” Mr. Bonderman said, adding that the emerging middle class would add trillions of dollars to emerging economies, particularly on the consumption side. This should lead to a “huge rebalancing of how the world sees itself,” he said.

Mr. Bonderman was asked about TPG’s recent exit from the Turkish spirits company Mey Icki , which TPG acquired in 2006 for about $800 million and sold in February for $2.1 billion.

He responded: “We thought it was a good opportunity, and it turned out to be. We would have taken it public had Diageo not shown up. As in any other place, if you can sell the whole business, you’re better off than taking it public, where you have to dribble it out even though you might get a nominally higher value. We like Turkey as a place to invest and we’ll be back.”

On the sovereign crises, such as the one in Greece, Mr. Bonderman said: “When governments are selling, you should be buying. And when governments are defaulting, we should look at that as an opportunity. Prices are always lower when the troops are in the street. A good default, like Portugal or Greece, would be very good for the private equity business. Might not be so good for the republic, but it would be good for us.”

KKR & Bain to IPO HCA at $30 per Share – Mega IPO, Sponsors to make 2.5x on Deal

Friday, March 4th, 2011

HCA Holdings, the large hospital operator in the world, confirmed that it had set a preliminary price range for its initial public offering of $27 to $30 a share last month.  The company was taken private in 2006 for about $30 billion, with an equity check that was only 15% of its purchase price!  Last year, HCA’s $4.3 billion dividend recapitalization itself made many parties in the deal whole on their initial investment.  The IPO is gravy, icing on the cake.  And to top it all off, this had been done with the hospital operator before: “The company had been under private-equity ownership before, completing a $5.1 billion leveraged buyout in 1989. When it went public again in 1992, it handed its backers, including units of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., a more-than- eightfold gain, BusinessWeek magazine reported at the time.”

According to BusinessWeek, after a tepid turnout in 2010, there has been a modest uptick in buyout-backed offerings this year, with several exceeding expectations. Among the recent I.P.O.’s are Nielsen Holdings, Kinder Morgan and Bank United. HCA is currently pitching its offering to investors.

A private equity consortium, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Bain Capital and Merrill Lynch, acquired HCA in 2006, loading the company up with debt. HCA, in its filing, said it planned to use proceeds from its offering to pay off some of its debt.

What a difference 10 months have made for HCA Inc. and its private-equity owners, KKR & Co., Bain Capital LLC and Bank of America Corp.

When the hospital operator, which went private in a record leveraged buyout in 2006, filed in May to go public, U.S. initial offerings were stumbling, with deals in the first four months raising an average of 13 percent less than sought. Rather than press ahead, the owners took on more debt to pay themselves a $2 billion dividend in November, in a transaction known as a dividend recapitalization.

This month, HCA’s owners are betting that stock markets have recovered enough for investors to pick up the shares, even with the additional debt. If they’re right, they may triple their initial investment in what would be the largest private- equity backed initial public offering on record.

“This has been a classic case of buy low, sell high from the beginning,” said J. Andrew Cowherd, managing director in the health-care group of Peter J. Solomon Co., a New York-based investment bank. “Private-equity buyers have timed capital markets perfectly on this deal.”

The offering, if successful, underscores the crucial role played by the capital markets in leveraged buyouts, at times eclipsing the impact of operational changes private-equity firms make at their companies. A surge in demand for stocks and junk- bonds, fueled by asset purchases of the Federal Reserve that sent investors searching for yield, have helped KKR and Bain reap profits from HCA, even as the company remains burdened with $28.2 billion in debt and slowing revenue growth.

Record Deal

KKR, Bain, Bank of America and other owners invested about $5 billion in equity in the $33 billion takeover of HCA, which including debt was the largest leveraged buyout at the time. The backers, who took out $4.3 billion in dividends from HCA last year as the high-yield market soared, stand to get more than $1 billion from the IPO and will retain a stake in HCA valued at about $11 billion.

In acquiring Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA, KKR and Bain chose a company with steady cash flow and a business that’s protected from swings in the economy. Cash flow from operations was $3.16 billion in the year before the 2006 buyout, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. As of Dec. 31, 2010, that number was little changed at $3.09 billion.

The company had been under private-equity ownership before, completing a $5.1 billion leveraged buyout in 1989. When it went public again in 1992, it handed its backers, including units of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., a more-than- eightfold gain, BusinessWeek magazine reported at the time.

Income Streams

Unlike some other buyouts of the boom years that had less predictable income streams, HCA has reported revenue growth of between 5 percent and 6 percent every year it was private, except in 2010, when growth slowed to 2.1 percent. Net income has increased 17 percent since the end of 2006.

NXP Semiconductors NV, another 2006 buyout involving KKR and Bain, had combined losses of $5.8 billion between the takeover and its IPO in August. NXP, which sold just 14 percent of its shares, had to cut the offering price, leaving investors with a 21 percent paper loss as of Dec. 31. The stock has more than doubled since the IPO.

HCA, the biggest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S., attributes gains in income to cost-cutting measures and initiatives to improve services for patients. The company sold some hospitals after the buyout and made “significant investments” in expanding service lines, as well as in information technology, HCA said in a regulatory filing.

‘Aggressive Changes’

“HCA was already one of the better operators when it was taken private so it was hard to see how much cost could be driven out of the business,” Dean Diaz, senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service in New York, said in a telephone interview. “But they are very good at what they do and are above where we would have expected on Ebitda growth.”

Some of the improvements in earnings have come from “aggressive changes in billing and bad debt expense reserves,” Vicki Bryan, an analyst at New York-based corporate-bond research firm Gimme Credit LLC, said in a Feb. 22 report.

Provisions for doubtful accounts dropped 19 percent last year, to $2.65 billion. Capital spending, or money invested in the company, declined to about 4 percent of revenue last year from 7 percent in 2006. The company hasn’t used its cash to bring down the debt load, which is about the same as it was at the time of the takeover.

That debt will contribute to a negative shareholder equity, a measure of what stockholders will be left with if all assets were sold and debts were paid, of $8.6 billion, according to Bryan. Excluding intangible assets, new investors buying the stock would own a negative $51 per share, she said.

‘Funding the LBO’

“Today’s HCA stock buyers are still funding the 2006 LBO, which enriched many of the same equity owners for the second time, plus the massive dividends and management fees paid to those equity investors who will remain very much in control,” Bryan wrote in the report.

While it’s not unusual for companies that exit LBOs to have more debt than assets, it means they will have to use cash flow to reduce debt rather than pay out dividends, limiting returns for shareholders. HCA’s share price doubled in the 14-year period between its 1992 IPO and the 2006 buyout, not including the impact of stock splits.

Ed Fishbough, an HCA spokesman, declined to comment, as did officials for New York-based KKR, Bain in Boston, and Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.

‘Slight Premium’

Even so, investors may pick up the stock after U.S. equity markets rallied to the highest levels since June 2008. So far this year, eight companies backed by private-equity or venture- capital firms have raised $5.9 billion in initial public offerings, five times the amount that such companies raised last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

At the midpoint of the price range of $27 to $30, the IPO would value the company at $14.7 billion. Based on metrics such as earnings and debt, that valuation would give HCA a “slight premium” to rivals such as Community Health Systems Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp., according to a Feb. 22 report from CreditSights Inc.

Community Health Systems, currently the biggest publicly traded hospital operator, in December bid $3.3 billion to buy Tenet in Dallas. If the takeover is successful, the combined company with about $22.2 billion in revenue as of Dec. 31, 2010 will still be smaller than HCA.

With as much as $4.28 billion in stock being sold, the HCA offering is poised to break the record set by Kinder Morgan Inc., the buyout-backed company that last month raised $2.9 billion in an IPO.

‘Medicare Schedule’

Shareholders will also have to weigh the impact of government spending cuts and changes to hospital payment schedules prompted by the 2010 U.S. health law and rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which administer the federal programs.

Baltimore-based CMS has been pushing to bundle payments to doctors and hospitals, giving them a set amount for a procedure that has to be split among providers. The agency also plans to penalize providers if patients acquire infections while in treatment or fare badly after stays. Too many readmissions, once regarded as more revenue, may now result in lower payment rates.

The federal health-care law will extend health insurance to 32 million more Americans and may prompt some employers to drop company-sponsored health benefits in favor of sending employees to state insurance exchanges the new law creates. While the newly insured may mean less bad debt for hospitals, fewer private sector-paid benefits may mean lower revenue for for- profits like HCA, because commercial payers and employers tend to pay the highest rates to providers.

Health-Care Impact

“Hospitals are going to have to learn how to be productive and profitable on a Medicare rate schedule,” said R. Lawrence Van Horn, who teaches at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Medicare and Medicaid pay less for procedures and treatment than employers and commercial insurers, which are “traditionally the most generous payers,” he said.

HCA said in its filing that it can’t predict the impact of the changes on the company.

For-profit hospitals like HCA depend more on commercial payers and less on government beneficiaries than do nonprofits, which have already seen their revenue reduced by government cutbacks, particularly in Medicaid. Chains like HCA, with their access to capital, may be able to take advantage of weakness among nonprofits to consolidate the industry further, Van Horn said.

Megan Neuburger, an analyst at Fitch Ratings in New York, said the biggest impact of the health-care reform won’t be felt until 2014, and the market recovery will play a more important role for now in determining HCA’s success.

Returning Money

“In the short term, the pace and progress of economic recovery will probably be more influential to the industry’s financial and operating trends than health-care reform,” Neuburger said in an interview.

For KKR and Bain, the timing of the IPO is crucial also because their clients want to see whether buyouts made just before the credit crisis can be profitable, before they commit capital to new funds. KKR is seeking to raise its 11th North American-focused buyout fund this year.

Buyout firms have been able to return some money to investors through dividend recapitalizations, as near-zero interest rates have spurred a demand for junk bonds. Borrowers sold $47 billion of debt last year, or 9 percent of offerings, to pay owners, compared with $11.7 billion in 2008 and 2009, according to Standard & Poor’s Leveraged Commentary and Data.

‘Unprecedented Amount’

Investors in Bain’s 2006 fund have received $1.6 billion in distributions so far, or about 20 percent of the $8 billion deployed. HCA’s dividends recapitalizations accounted for about $302 million of the total Bain paid out to the fund’s clients, according to an investor in the fund. The fund has generated an average annual loss of 6.4 percent, according to another person familiar with the fund.

“Investors committed an unprecedented amount of money over a short time period,” said Jeremie Le Febvre, the Paris-based global head of origination for Triago, which helps private- equity firms raise money. “Investors most likely won’t be as generous a second time, or even have the means to double down on a firm, as reputable as it may be, without first seeing money flowing back into their pockets.”

–With assistance from Lee Spears in New York and Christian Baumgaertel in 東京. Editors: Christian Baumgaertel, Larry Edelman

Here is an article LA put together earlier last year on a possible IPO: http://leverageacademy.com/blog/2010/04/11/hca-could-have-3-billion-ipo-4-years-after-kkr-bain-buyout/.

Check out our intensive investment banking, private equity, and sales & trading courses! The discount code Merger34299 will be activated until April 15, 2011. Questions? Feel free to e-mail thomas.r[at]leverageacademy.com with your inquiries or call our corporate line.


KKR Tries to Fool Investors with Toys R’ Us IPO

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Toys R Us was an Opco-Propco deal done by KKR, Bain, and Vornado in 2005 for $6.5+ billion.  The company was one of the largest owners of real estate in the United States, other than McDonalds.  Since the toy business was not performing well and Babies R Us could not yet produce enough EBITDA to drive the company’s public valuation, these three players found an opportunity to take advantage of its real estate holdings (good call, right?).  Unfortunately, the company now has $5.5 billion in debt on its balance sheet and only has 2.3% growth in sales, a $35mm loss in earnings, down from $95mm in profit last year, and a 25% increase in expenses year over year (SA).  Cash used in operations also increased from $800mm to $1.2 billion over that time period.  Sounds like a great time to IPO, right?  Well, the sponsors in this deal seem to think so.  With equity markets topping, they are trying their hardest to take advantage of foolish retail investors.  Invest at your own risk:

“(Reuters) – Toys R Us Inc TOY.UL is looking to raise around $800 million in an initial public offering in April, though a final decision has not been reached, the New York Post said on Saturday.

The New Jersey-based retailer, which operates stores under its namesake brand and the Babies R Us and FAO Schwarz labels, had put off plans for an IPO in 2010.

“Toys R Us took more market share from competitors last year than they have in the past 20 years,” said one source the Post described as close to the company. “But I don’t think they were satisfied with how they did on the profit level.”

Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said the company could not comment on the matter.

For December 2010, Toys R Us reported a 5.4 percent total sales rise at its U.S. unit as it lured holiday shoppers away from No. 1 toy retailer Wal-Mart with more temporary stores and exclusive toys. But same-store sales fell 5 percent at its international segment.

Overall, a tough 2010 holiday season had margins hit across the toy industry by bargain-seeking, recession-hit consumers.

So the economic environment has stoked continued debate between management and owners at Toys R Us about whether this is the best time to re-launch an IPO, according to a source briefed on the situation, the Post reported.

Toys R Us was taken private in 2005 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts KKR.AS, Bain Capital and Vornado Realty Trust in a $6.6 billion deal.

In May 2010, the company filed to raise as much as $800 million in an IPO. But that was not launched.

Toys R Us’s net loss widened to $93 million in the third quarter ended on October 30, 2010, from $67 million a year earlier. While sales were up 1.9 percent in the period, total operating expenses rose about 9.4 percent.

Last fall, the retailer opened 600 smaller “pop-up” stores that added to the more than 850 larger year-round stores it operates in the United States, the Post said.”

Groupon Raises A Billion Dollars

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Analysts are debating whether or not Groupon’s capital raise sets the record for the largest raise by a private company in a single venture capital round. However, until it is revealed how much of the financing was new equity capital, we cannot know for sure. Groupon did not detail how the company plans on spending the money, besides using it to “fuel global expansion, invest in technology, and provide liquidity for employees and early investors.” In the past year, Groupon has expanded from 1 to 35 countries, launched in almost 500 new markets, up from 30 markets in 2009, increased subscribers by 2500% reaching over 50 millions users, saved consumers 1.5 billion dollars, and worked with 58,000 local businesses, serving over 100,000 deals worldwide. The Company’s success stems from its ability to offer small businesses that don’t usually advertise online a way to reach local markets. Their success has attracted big investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, Greylock Partners, Maverick Capital, Silver Lake, Technology Crossover Ventures, and DST.

Groupon, the site that sells daily coupons for local businesses, has raised $950 million from investors, the largest amount raised by a start-up.

The investment follows Google’s $6 billion bid for Groupon, which fell apart last month. The list of new investors in the company include some of Silicon Valley’s hottest names, like Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Groupon, which is just over two years old and based in Chicago, has quickly catapulted into the ranks of the top tech companies. By selling coupons, like ones that offer $20 worth of books for $10 at a local bookstore, it gives small businesses a way to advertise and find new customers without spending money upfront.

“They’ve cracked the code on a formula for how to basically give access on the Internet as a marketing channel for offline merchants,” said Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz and a veteran of Silicon Valley. “It’s a very, very big deal because there are a lot of offline merchants that have not been able to use the Internet as a marketing vehicle.”

Mr. Andreessen said Groupon can play the same advertising role for small, offline businesses, like dry cleaners and cafes, that Google’s AdWords has played for online businesses.

“That’s why Google was interested,” he said.

Some analysts have questioned whether Groupon, whose revenue has been zooming upward, can continue to grow at the same rate. Local businesses usually heavily discount their products on Groupon, so they may not want to sell coupons more than once or twice, and some businesses have complained that they lost money on Groupon and that the people who bought the coupons did not become repeat customers.

But in an interview last week, Rob Solomon, Groupon’s president, said there were so many small businesses worldwide that Groupon can continue to grow rapidly, expanding beyond businesses like restaurants and yoga studios to law firms, for instance. He also said the company planned to offer other services to small businesses, like tools to manage their relationships with customers. These include running promotions themselves.

The record-breaking amount of money that Groupon has raised gives the company the ability to expand into those new areas — and to cash out earlier investors who may be getting impatient after the company walked away from Google’s buy-out offer.

For the venture capital firms, the investment is a way to get into one of the fastest-growing companies. Kleiner Perkins, which made a name for itself last decade with investments in Google and Amazon.com, has been slow to social media, but is turning that around with recent investments in Twitter and Groupon.

Mr. Andreessen said he considered Groupon, Facebook, Skype and Zynga — all companies in which his firm has invested — to be the four most promising companies in this era of Web start-ups, comparable to Google, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon a decade ago.

Other investors include Battery Ventures, Greylock Partners, Maverick Capital, Silver Lake, Technology Crossover Ventures and DST, the Russian investment firm that previously invested in Groupon.

Goldman Values Facebook at $50 billion, Digital Sky Technologies Makes 400% on its Investment Since 2009!

Monday, January 3rd, 2011
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The New York Times announced today that Goldman Sachs and Russian Investor Digital Sky Technologies are investing $500 million into Facebook at a valuation of $50 billion.   According to Second Market, some private investors have bid up the Company’s shares to imply a value of $56 billion.  This bid comes soon after Google announced a $6 billion bid for Groupon a couple weeks ago.  Some call the Facebook valuation astronomical, and it theoretically doubles the net worth of founder Mark Zuckerberg to approximately $14 billion.  Two years ago Microsoft attempted to purchase a stake in Facebook at $15 billion, which at the time was deemed too high.  Digital Technology’s original 2009 stake in Google, which valued the company at $10 billion has since quintupled.  While Goldman is purchasing shares, VC firm Accel Partners is selling very aggressively at much lower valuations.  When examined more closely, with this purchase, Goldman may have bought it’s right to the Facebook IPO.  If Goldman is able to IPO shares of the company at a higher price, it could eventually simply divest of its shares in the open markets at a higher valuation and make a fat fee in the process.
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According to Reuters, “Goldman Sachs is investing $450 million of its own money into Facebook and that it’s bringing along $50 million from Digital Sky Technologies and as much as $1 billion more from its high-net-worth clients — all at a valuation of $50 billion.

The enormous sums of money involved here clearly ratify the valuation: this isn’t a handful of shares trading in an illiquid market, it’s an investment substantially larger than most IPOs.

It’s worth remembering here that only two years ago, when Microsoft bought into Facebook at a $15 billion valuation, that sum was described in the NYT as “astronomical”. But that said, Facebook’s multiples have clearly shrunk from those heady days: in 2007, Facebook could actually use Microsoft’s $240 million to fuel its expansion. Today, it’s reportedly earning $2 billion a year, which implies to me that this is a cash-out rather than a dilutive offering. Facebook has raised, in total, about $850 million to date, and there’s no obvious need for a massive new round of funding which would dwarf that entire sum.

If Goldman is leading the buyers, then, who are the sellers? VC shop Accel Partners has been selling Facebook shares quite aggressively of late, at lower valuations than this. They could easily provide all the shares that Goldman is buying and still be left with a stake worth some $3.5 billion. And it’s entirely conceivable that some early employees might well want to diversify their holdings and have maybe a little less than 99% of their net worth in Facebook stock.

As for Goldman, it has probably bought itself the IPO mandate, which could easily generate hundreds of millions of dollars in fee income. It has also become the only investment bank which can give its rich-people clients a coveted pre-IPO stake in Facebook: the extra cachet that brings and the possible extra clients, make this investment a no-brainer. Facebook doesn’t need to stay worth $50 billion forever — Goldman just needs to engineer an IPO valuation somewhere north of that, then exit quietly in the public markets. And that is surely within its abilities.

According to Dealbook, “the deal could double the personal fortune of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder.

Facebook, the popular social networking site, has raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor in a deal that values the company at $50 billion, according to people involved in the transaction. The deal makes Facebook now worth more than companies like eBay, Yahoo, and Time Warner.

The stake by Goldman Sachs, considered one of Wall Street’s savviest investors, signals the increasing might of Facebook, which has already been bearing down on giants like Google. The new money will give Facebook more firepower to steal away valuable employees, develop new products and possibly pursue acquisitions — all without being a publicly traded company. The investment may also allow earlier shareholders, including Facebook employees, to cash out at least some of their stakes.

The new investment comes as the SEC has begin an inquiry into the increasingly hot private market for shares in Internet companies, including Facebook, Twitter, the gaming site Zynga and LinkedIn, an online professional networking site. Some experts suggest the inquiry is focused on whether certain companies are improperly using the private market to get around public disclosure requirements.

The new money could add pressure on Facebook to go public even as its executives have resisted. The popularity of shares of Microsoft and Google in the private market ultimately pressured them to pursue initial public offerings.

So far, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has brushed aside the possibility of an initial public offering or a sale of the company. At an industry conference in November, he said on the topic, “Don’t hold your breath.” However, people involved in the fund-raising effort suggest that Facebook’s board has indicated an intention to consider a public offering in 2012.

There has been an explosion in user interest in social media sites. The social buying site Groupon, which recently rejected a $6 billion takeover bid from Google, is in the process of raising as much as $950 million from major institutional investors, at a valuation near $5 billion, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

“When you think back to the early days of Google, they were kind of ignored by Wall Street investors, until it was time to go public,” said Chris Sacca, an angel investor in Silicon Valley who is a former Google employee and an investor in Twitter. “This time, the Street is smartening up. They realize there are true growth businesses out here. Facebook has become a real business, and investors are coming out here and saying, ‘We want a piece of it.’”

The Facebook investment deal is likely to stir up a debate about what the company would be worth in the public market. Though it does not disclose its financial performance, analysts estimate the company is profitable and could bring in as much as $2 billion in revenue annually.

Under the terms of the deal, Goldman has invested $450 million, and Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment firm that has already sunk about half a billion dollars into Facebook, invested $50 million, people involved in the talks said.

Goldman has the right to sell part of its stake, up to $75 million, to the Russian firm, these people said. For Digital Sky Technologies, the deal means its original investment in Facebook, at a valuation of $10 billion, has gone up fivefold.

Representatives for Facebook, Goldman and Digital Sky Technologies all declined to comment.

Goldman’s involvement means it may be in a strong position to take Facebook public when it decides to do so in what is likely to be a lucrative and prominent deal.

As part of the deal, Goldman is expected to raise as much as $1.5 billion from investors for Facebook at the $50 billion valuation, people involved in the discussions said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the transaction was not supposed to be made public until the fund-raising had been completed.

In a rare move, Goldman is planning to create a “special purpose vehicle” to allow its high-net worth clients to invest in Facebook, these people said. While the S.E.C. requires companies with more than 499 investors to disclose their financial results to the public, Goldman’s proposed special purpose vehicle may be able get around such a rule because it would be managed by Goldman and considered just one investor, even though it could conceivably be pooling investments from thousands of clients.

It is unclear whether the S.E.C. will look favorably upon the arrangement.

Already, a thriving secondary market exists for shares of Facebook and other private Internet companies. In November, $40 million worth of Facebook shares changed hands in an auction on a private exchange called SecondMarket. According to SharesPost, Facebook’s value has roughly tripled over the last year, to $42.4 billion. Some investors appear to have bought Facebook shares at a price that implies a valuation of $56 billion. But the credibility of one of Wall Street’s largest names, Goldman, may help justify the company’s worth.

Facebook also surpassed Google as the most visited Web site in 2010, according to the Internet tracking firm Experian Hitwise.

Facebook received 8.9 percent of all Web visits in the United States between January and November 2010. Google’s main site was second with 7.2 percent, followed by Yahoo Mail service, Yahoo’s Web portal and YouTube, part of Google.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, the deal may double his personal fortune, which Forbes estimated at $6.9 billion when Facebook was valued at $23 billion. That would put him in a league with the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are reportedly worth $15 billion apiece.

Even as Goldman takes a stake in Facebook, its employees may struggle to view what they invested in. Like those at most major Wall Street firms, Goldman’s computers automatically block access to social networking sites, including Facebook.”

Yahoo! Jumps on Buyout Rumors from AOL, KKR, Silver Lake, Blackstone

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Two years after Microsoft tried to acquire Yahoo! for $33/share and the company lost half its market value, AOL and Silver Lake have separately lined up financial advisers to explore options for the company.  AOL is also exploring a scenario where Yahoo!’s Asian assets are spun off and the capital is returned to shareholders before the acquisition.  AOL has been extremely proactive in buying companies over the past two months, purchasing 5min Ltd., an Internet content provider and TechCrunch, a popular technology blog.

Bloomberg announced today that KKR is also interested in helping finance the transaction.  Silver Lake Partners and Blackstone are currently in buyout talks.  The sponsors are interested in Yahoo!’s 40% stake in Alibaba, a growing Chinese online business.  Yahoo! currently employs about 13,600 people and had revenues of about $1.6 billion last quarter. Shares in the company rose 9.5% on the rumors today, and the firm’s management team may have hired Goldman Sachs as a takeover defense advisor to ward off bids.

According to the WSJ, analysts say that a Yahoo!-AOL merger could create a strong competitor in the display ads market, which is estimated to be $20 billion this year.  This should be an interesting transaction, if it proceeds further, as Yahoo has a market capitalization of $21.85 billion and AOL has a market capitalization of $2.66 billion.  However, analysts value Alibaba.com at between $15bn and $25bn, which means that Yahoo!’s 40% stake could be worth $10 billion. By selling those assets, Yahoo!’s market value would fall to about $11 billion, which would make the deal much more realistic.

On the other hand, Alexei Oreskovic and Sue Zeidler argue that the company will have hurdles even if it does get bought out.  Yahoo! made many desperate attempts to grow revenue this year, such as its attempts to purchase foursquare and Groupon.  According to one analyst, “making Yahoo! bigger or smaller will not accomplish anything.”  Yahoo! is the 2nd most popular search engine behind Google, but it has failed to find growth in page views or new business.  From a private equity investor’s point of view, Yahoo! may simply be attractive because of the steady cash flow it generates, if nothing else.

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NetSpend IPO Skyrockets 20% – Prepaid Cards Serving the Underbanked

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

NetSpend Skyrockets After IPO

Who would have thought that a prepaid card manufacturer could reach a $1.2 billion valuation?

IPO Details

On October 19th, NetSpend Holdings (NASDAQ: NTSP), a marketer and distributor of prepaid debit cards, was able to complete a successful $204 million initial public offering, rising over 18% in its first day of trading.  The IPO was one of the most successful of the summer.  Shares of NetSpend jumped to almost $14 on October 20th from their initial $11 IPO price.  The IPO proceeds were used by Oak Investment Partners to cut the investment firm’s stake in the company from 47% to 39%.

The company sold 18.5 million shares on the 19th, after pushing back the date of its debut due to the investigation of its customer Metabank by the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision.   Competitor Green Dot Corp., the largest provider of prepaid debit cards has rallied 35% since July.  On the other hand, Meta Financial has fallen 60% since it was forced to shut down one of its credit card programs.

Valuation

According to Rolfe Winkler of the Wall Street Journal, investors were paying $550+ apiece for each share of NetSpend purchased through its IPO.  Netspend has an enterprise value (BEV) of about $1.2 billion, which implies a $590 valuation on its cards, whereas competitor Green Dot is valued at $630+ per card.   One reason for the high valuation may lie in the fact that pre-IPO investors cannot sell their stakes until April 2011.

Risks

The risk in investing in NetSpend lies in the fact that the company’s processing fees per card provide only $11 in revenue per month.  Marketing and distribution expenses are fairly high as well, and customers also only use cards for 1 year before cancelling.  Churn is a significant issue for the company.  This is why the company’s EBIT or operating margin is only about 15%.  Due to the emergence to competitors and market saturation, NetSpend’s growth has decelerated from 50% in 2006 to 20% in 2009.

Business Model

Since 2005, there have been a number of prepaid card providers that have emerged and have been targeting low income consumers underserved by banks.  NetSpend has about two million active cards and is the second largest player in the United States with 40% market share.  It attracts customers by promising no overdraft fees and minimum balances.  As more banks turn away from low income customers, there may be potential for continued growth in this market.  The company claims that $7.6 billion in transactions were made using its cards in 2009.

NetSpend cards are sold at 39,000 retail store locations and are used by 800 corporate employers who use NetSpend cards to pay employees without bank accounts.  The cards are also FDIC-insured and are Visa & Mastercard branded.

Market

Approximately 25% of households in the United States are underbanked, and are searching for alternatives to traditional bank accounts.  The industry has growth at a CAGR of 49% from 2005 to 2009 and has reached a market size of approximately $300 million.  The business is also scalable, with industry average EBITDA margins at 25%.

CALPERS purchases 12.7% stake in U.K.’s Gatwick Airport Through Global Infrastructure Partners

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

CALPERS purchased a 12.7% stake in U.K.’s Gatwick Airport yesterday.  Gatwick is the U.K.’s 2nd busiest airport with 200 destinations.  This looks like an opportunistic bid for U.K. based cash flows as the pound is discounted and the U.K. economy may take years to rebound.

According to Reuters, “Calpers, the biggest U.S. public pension fund, said on Friday it had committed up to roughly $155 million to Global Infrastructure Partners for a 12.7 percent equity stake in London’s Gatwick Airport.

The commitment marks the first direct infrastructure investment foray by Calpers, the $200 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

It covers the equity purchase price and provisions for bridge costs and future administrative expenses, Calpers said in a statement.

“We are looking for opportunities to invest directly in high-quality infrastructure assets. We see it as a good fit for our burgeoning infrastructure program,” said George Diehr, chairman of Calpers’ investment committee.

Earlier this year, Global Infrastructure Partners, founded by Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX) and General Electric (GE.N), sold stakes in Gatwick to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and to South Korea’s National Pension Service.”

Adebayo Ogunlesi, Chairman and Managing Partner of GIP commented: “We are delighted that CalPERS, one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated public pension funds, is investing alongside GIP in Gatwick. We look forward to working with CalPERS over the coming years as partners in what we believe will be an outstanding investment for all stakeholders.”

Michael McGhee, the GIP Partner leading the acquisition of Gatwick and now a Director at the airport, added: “This is an exciting time at Gatwick as we work on updating and modernizing the airport to transform the passenger experience. We are pleased that CalPERS has joined GIP and our existing partners as investors in Gatwick as we introduce improved operating procedures and performance enhancements throughout the airport.”

About Global Infrastructure Partners

GIP is an independent infrastructure fund that invests worldwide in infrastructure assets and businesses in both OECD and selected emerging market countries. GIP has offices in New York and London with an affiliate in Sydney and portfolio business operations headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. For more information, visit www.global-infra.com.

About CalPERS

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) provides retirement and health benefits to more than 1.6 million public employees, retirees, and their families and more than 3,000 employers in the state of California, United States of America. The CalPERS fund invests in a range of asset classes, with a current market value of approximately $206 billion.

About Gatwick Airport

Gatwick is the UK’s second-largest airport and the world’s busiest single runway airport. It is currently handling approximately 32.5 million passengers a year through its two terminals, on a mix of short and long-haul scheduled, low-cost and charter services. The airport currently serves around 80 airlines flying to over 200 destinations.