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Analysis: From famine to feast, investment in European tech startups roars back – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Douglas Busvine

BERLIN (Reuters) – With Europe in coronavirus lockdown, venture capital fund manager Fergal Mullen told his investors in April he would find it hard to back a startup without first meeting its founders.

A couple of months later, the Geneva-based co-founder and partner of Highland Europe broke his own promise and invested in Meditopia, a mindfulness app with teams in Berlin and Istanbul that he got to know over some 40 calls on video app Zoom.

“I had to eat my hat,” said Mullen, looking back on a year of deal making that, after a sudden stop in the spring, came back to life in late summer and has gathered pace since.

Highland Europe has just raised 700 million euros ($850 million) for a fourth fund, its largest, and is preparing for the sale or flotation of around 10 of its portfolio companies next year.

And, according to interviews with more than half a dozen investors, the wider recovery in European tech investment activity looks likely to extend into 2021 as venture-backed startups achieve scale.

Proceeds raised by European venture funds have already hit an annual record 17.1 billion euros in the year to date, while the amount invested in startups has reached 39.7 billion euros, according to data platform Dealroom.co.

Taking into account reporting lags, the final sum invested is on track to beat last year’s all-time high of 40.3 billion euros, said Tom Wehmeier, partner at Atomico and author of the closely-watched State of European Tech https://2020.stateofeuropeantech.com report.

“The scale of those outcomes is getting bigger and bigger, and the velocity in which value is being created – it’s getting faster and faster,” said Wehmeier, pointing to the 115 venture-backed ‘unicorns’ in Europe valued at more than $1 billion.

While Europe still lags North America by four to one in dollars invested in tech startups, the institutional money flowing into venture capital has grown threefold over the last five years.

Nearly two-thirds of venture capitalists and 70% of their investors expect European tech to gain ground on the United States and China over the next decade, according a survey by Atomico.

Graphic: European technology investment https://graphics.reuters.com/TECH-EUROPE/azgvoykjgvd/chart.png

DRY POWDER

Early-stage and growth investor Index Ventures raised $2 billion just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and soon discovered that remote working enabled it to review and do deals far more quickly.

“We never had a slowdown and had a lot of dry powder,” said partner Martin Mignot. “With everyone remote we can see and meet more entrepreneurs.”

Where deal flow has slowed is via exits onto public markets, with proceeds from initial public offerings (IPOs) by European technology firms less than half their 2018 peak even as a string of IPOs took U.S. markets by storm.

That partly reflects the growing depth of private markets, however, say investors who point to Klarna, the Swedish financial technology company, achieving a valuation of more than $10 billion in its latest funding round.

UiPath, whose software helps automate routine business tasks, has achieved similar ‘decacorn’ status while still private and, like Klarna, is eyeing an IPO in 2021.

The Romanian startup now has a U.S. headquarters and plans to float there. That’s a common route for European startups chasing rich U.S. valuations and founder-friendly listing rules – and a challenge for Europe’s tech ecosystem, investors say.

UiPath was backed in its infancy by Earlybird, whose emerging Europe fund turned heads in June when Istanbul-based Peak Games, in which it had invested, was sold to Zynga Inc for $1.8 billion.

Such deals are breeding new startups even in parts of Europe previously little known for home-grown tech entrepreneurship.

“Every liquidity event, every acquisition, every IPO ends up spawning groups of these talented people,” said Earlybird’s Cem Sertoglu.

LONDON STRONG

While the remote working trend is helping founders take on global markets without having to relocate to Silicon Valley, it is also taking the edge off the near-term risks arising from Brexit – Britain’s looming exit from the European single market.

“It won’t affect the momentum that much in 2021, given how much pent-up demand there is, how much money is sitting on the sidelines, and how many conversations are happening,” said Erin Platts, the London-based regional head of Silicon Valley Bank, a specialist lender to technology firms.

Britain has actually extended its lead this year in venture fund raising and its tech startups have attracted a third of total European investment, Dealroom.co data show.

It also remains the preferred landing zone for U.S. software firms seeking to gain a foothold in Europe, said Stephen McIntyre of early-stage investor and advisory firm Frontline.

“The only people who are talking about Brexit are the Brits and Irish,” said McIntyre. “With U.S. CEOs, not only does it not come up – they honestly think it’s done.”

($1 = 0.8230 euros)

(Writing by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Mark Potter)

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Singapore Based Influencer Tung Sheng Continues to Expand his Investment Ventures – Yahoo Finance

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Raymond James: 2 Big 7% Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

Watching the markets with an eye to the main chance, Raymond James strategist Tavis McCourt sees both risk and opportunity in current market conditions. The opportunity, in his opinion, stems from the obvious factors: the Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats in the recent runoff vote, giving the incoming Biden Administration majority support in both Houses of Congress – and increasing the odds of meaningful fiscal support getting signed into law in the near term. More importantly, the coronavirus vaccination program is proceeding, and reports are showing that Pfizer’s vaccine, one of two approved in the US, is effective against the new strain of the virus. A successful vaccination program will speed up the economic recovery, allowing states to loosen lockdown regulations – and get people back to work. The risks are also coming from the political and public health realms. The House Democrats have passed articles of impeachment against President Trump, despite the imminent natural closure of his term of office, and that passage reduces the chances of political reconciliation in a heavily polarized environment. And while the COVID strain is matched by current vaccines, there is still a risk that a new strain will develop that is not covered by existing vaccinations – which could restart the cycle of lockdowns and economic decline. Another risk McCourt sees, beyond those two, would be a sharp rise in inflation. He doesn’t discount that, but sees it as unlikely to happen soon. “…product/service inflation is only really a possibility AFTER re-openings, so the market feels a bit bullet proof in the very near term, and thus the continued rally, with Dems winning the GA races just adding fuel to the stimulus fire,” McCourt noted. Some of McCourt’s colleagues among the Raymond James analyst cadre are keeping these risks in mind, and putting their imprimatur on strong dividend stocks. We’ve looked into Raymond James’ recent calls, and using the TipRanks database, we’ve chosen two stocks with high-yield dividends. These Buy-rated tickers bring a dividend yield of 7%, a strong attraction for investors interested in using the current good times to set up a defensive firewall should the risks materialize. Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) We’ll start in the energy sector, a business segment long known for both high cash flows and high dividends. Enterprise Products Partners is a midstream company, part of the network that moves hydrocarbon products from the wellheads to the storage farms, refineries, and distribution points. Enterprise controls over 50,000 miles worth of pipelines, shipping terminals on Texas’ Gulf coast, and storage facilities for 160 million barrels oil and 14 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The company was hurt by low prices and low demand in 1H20, but partially recovered in the second half. Revenues turned around, growing 27% sequentially to reach $6.9 billion in Q3. That number was down year-over-year, slipping 5.4%, but came in more than 6% above the Q3 forecast. Q3 earnings, at 48 cents per share, were just under the forecast, but were up 4% year-over-year and 2% sequentially. EPD has recently declared its 4Q20 dividend distribution, at 45 cents per common share. This is up from the previous payment of 44 cents, and marks the first increase in two years. At $1.80 annualized, the payment yields 7.9%. Among the bulls is Raymond James’ Justin Jenkins, who rates EPD a Strong Buy. The analyst gives the stock a $26 price target, which implies a 15% upside from current levels. (To watch Jenkins’ track record, click here) Backing his bullish stance, Jenkins noted, “In our view, EPD’s unique combination of integration, balance sheet strength, and ROIC track record remains best in class. We see EPD as arguably best positioned to withstand the volatile landscape… With EPD’s footprint, demand gains, project growth, and contracted ramps should more than offset supply headwinds and lower y/y marketing results…” It’s not often that the analysts all agree on a stock, so when it does happen, take note. EPD’s Strong Buy consensus rating is based on a unanimous 9 Buys. The stock’s $24.63 average price target suggests an upside of 9% from the current share price of $22.65. (See EPD stock analysis on TipRanks) AT&T, Inc. (T) AT&T is one of the market’s instantly recognizable stock. The company is a member in long standing of the S&P 500, and it has reputation as one of the stock market’s best dividend payers. AT&T is a true large-cap industry giant, with a market cap of $208 billion and the largest network of mobile and landline phone services in the US. Its acquisition of TimeWarner (now WarnerMedia), in a process running between 2016 and 2018, has given the company a large stake in the mobile content streaming business. AT&T saw revenues and earnings decline in 2020, under pressure from the corona pandemic – but the decline was modest, as that same pandemic also put a premium on telecom and networking systems, which tended to support AT&T’s business. Revenues in 3Q20 were $42.3 billion, 5% below the year-ago quarter. On positive notes, free cash flow rose yoy from $11.4 billion to $12.1 billion, and the company reported a net gain of 5.5 million new subscribers. The subscriber growth was driven by the new 5G network rollout – and by premium content services. The company held up its reputation as a dividend champ, and has made its most recent dividend declaration for payment in February 2021. The payment, at 52 per common share, is the fifth in a row at current level and annualizes to $2.08, giving a yield of 7.2%. For comparison, the average dividend among tech sector peer companies is only 0.9%. AT&T has kept its dividend strong for the past 12 years. Raymond James analyst Frank Louthan sees AT&T as a classic defensive value stock, and describes T’s current state as one with the bad news ‘baked in.’ “[We] believe there is more that can go right during the next 12 months than can get worse for AT&T. Throw in the fact that shares are heavily shorted, and we believe this is a recipe for upside. Large cap value names are hard to come by, and we think investors who can wait a few months for a mean reversion while locking in a 7% yield should be rewarded for buying AT&T at current levels,” Louthan opined. In line with these comments, Louthan rates T an Outperform (i.e. Buy), and his $32 price target implies room for 10% growth from current levels. (To watch Louthan’s track record, click here) What does the rest of the Street think? Looking at the consensus breakdown, opinions from other analysts are more spread out. 7 Buy ratings, 6 Holds and 2 Sells add up to a Moderate Buy consensus. In addition, the $31.54 average price target indicates ~9% upside potential. (See AT&T stock analysis on TipRanks) To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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GM to Invest Nearly $800m for EV Output at Ontario Plant – Bloomberg

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General Motors Co. will invest nearly $800 million to bring production of the BrightDrop EV600 electric vehicle to its CAMI manufacturing plant in Ontario, Canada.

The investment will convert the factory into a large-scale electric delivery vehicle manufacturing plant to support GM’s timing to deliver the EV600 in late 2021, the company said in a statement. The agreement is subject to ratification with union Unifor and confirmation of government support.

GM on Tuesday announced the creation of a wholly owned company, BrightDrop, last week, with plans to supply battery-powered vans but also offers fleet-management services.

See more: GM Expands Plug-In Push to Delivery Vans, Ultra-Luxury Cars

The proposed investment would create Canada’s first large-scale commercial EV manufacturing plant, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Vic Fedeli said in a statement.

Separately, Ford Motor Co. reached a tentative contract agreement with Unifor in the latter half of last year, including plans to assemble five battery-powered models beginning in 2025 at the company’s Oakville, Ontario plant. The plant was at risk of closing because the Edge sport-utility vehicle made there has an uncertain future.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also agreed to spend between C$1.35 billion and C$1.5 billion on a new electric-vehicle platform at its Windsor, Ontario plant.

GM has deep roots in Ontario, having built over 20 million vehicles at its Oshawa plant since 1918. GM said last fall it will invest as much as C$1.3 billion ($997 million) to reopen its assembly plant in Oshawa under a tentative deal with Unifor.

(Updates with Ontario government comment and related EV pacts from fourth paragraph.)

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    Arizona Coyotes' Investment in Forwards Must Pay Dividends in 2020-21 – The Hockey Writers

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    It’s no secret that the offense hasn’t been the strength of an Arizona Coyotes team since…. well, ever. The ‘Yotes moved to the Valley of the Sun 25 years ago, and, since then, they’ve scored the second-fewest goals in the league, at 2.58 per game. They finished in the top-10 in goals only once, in 2001-02, and haven’t finished better than 20th in scoring since 2011-12.

    Until this organization is able to draft and develop top-tier talent on a regular basis, scoring is likely to be a problem, so they’ll need to continue winning games in the manner in which they did so in 2019-20 – with outstanding defense and goaltending, along with a scoring-by-committee approach at the other end.

    These efforts will be bolstered in 2020-21 if the Coyotes’ three highest-paid forwards – Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, and Nick Schmaltz – are able to help out offensively on a regular basis. Across the NHL, there have been 379 different 60-point seasons from various players throughout the past eight years. Meanwhile, the only Coyotes’ skater to reach that mark since 2011-12 was Keller, in 2017-18. This needs to change in 2020-21, and Arizona’s highest-paid forwards need to be the ones leading the way.

    Coyotes Counting on Keller

    First and foremost in this group is the 22-year-old Keller, who has just wrapped up his entry-level contract and is now into his eight-year deal with an average annual value of $7.15 million. With the increase in pay comes an increase in expectations and responsibility, and Keller will need to reverse the trend in his play that has emerged over his first three years in the league.

    After a breakout rookie season in 2017-18 where Keller posted 65 points, hopes were high that the Coyotes had finally found the game-breaking forward that they’d spent the better part of the prior two decades searching for. However, Keller’s play declined in Years 2 and 3, as he posted 47 and 44 points, respectively, and failed to match the 23 goals or the 42 assists he recorded as a rookie.

    Clayton Keller must step up and be Arizona’s best offensive player in 2020-21. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

    With star forward Taylor Hall now playing for the Buffalo Sabres, Keller is expected to lead Arizona’s offense in 2020-21. He’s fresh off of a solid performance in the Edmonton playoff bubble, where he posted seven points in nine games, and he collected two points in Thursday’s opening-night shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, so there’s reason for optimism here.

    If Keller is able to produce consistent offense at even strength and help the team’s power play, the Coyotes should be in good shape and should be in the conversation for the West Division’s fourth playoff spot in May as the season winds down. If not, it could be a long year in Glendale.

    Schmaltz, Kessel Must Rebound

    While Keller is the main piece of the Coyotes’ forward group, Kessel and Schmaltz are not far behind. Arizona’s second and third-highest paid forwards, respectively, Kessel and Schmaltz had down years in 2019-20, but Kessel’s production was especially concerning.

    ‘Phil the Thrill’ endured an injury-plagued 2019-20 season, his first in Arizona. His ironman streak is now up to 845 games, but one could argue that he would have been better off sitting for a few games in order to recover from the various ailments he was attempting to play through.

    Phil Kessel Arizona Coyotes
    The Coyotes need Phil Kessel to return to his All-Star form this season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

    At any rate, Kessel posted arguably his worst season as a pro last year, with just 14 goals and 24 assists, good for 38 points. This came after a three-year run in Pittsburgh where Phil racked up 244 points in 246 games. Obviously, this is a huge drop-off in production. While it’s true that leaving a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would result in most NHL players seeing a decrease in offensive output, Kessel’s play fell off of a cliff last season in a development that few saw coming.

    As with Keller, though, Kessel got out to a good start in 2020-21, scoring the biggest goal of his Coyotes tenure with 3.2 seconds left in the third period on Thursday at Gila River Arena:

    When it comes to Schmaltz, the Coyotes are looking for consistency from him this season. Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 25, 2018, in the trade that sent 2015 third-overall pick Dylan Strome to the Windy City, Schmaltz is in his third year in Arizona. He enjoyed a brief run of success in 2018-19 after coming over from Chicago, posting 14 points in his first 17 games in the desert (a 68-point pace) before going down with a knee injury on Dec. 30, 2018.

    Coyotes Need Consistency from Schmaltz

    Last year, Schmaltz posted 45 points in 70 games, which is fine and equates to a 52-point pace over a full 82 games, but he was invisible for large parts of the season. In a 16-game stretch between Nov. 7 and Dec. 6, Schmaltz scored only once to go with five assists, while in 18 games from Jan. 7 to Feb. 17, the Madison, WI native endured a seven-game scoring drought while posting just a single goal along with four helpers.

    Nick Schmaltz Arizona Coyotes
    Nick Schmaltz will need to be more consistent going forward in Arizona. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

    These offensive downturns were offset by two 13-game hot streaks where Schmaltz averaged better than a point per game. From Oct. 10 to Nov. 5, the 24-year-old collected 4 goals and 10 assists, while from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4, Schmaltz scored twice and added 13 helpers, for a combined total of 29 points in 26 contests.

    Unlike the rest of his teammates, Schmaltz did not have a chance to build upon his regular-season performance in the Edmonton bubble, as he was the recipient of a questionable hit from noted Vegas Golden Knights’ tough guy Ryan Reaves in an exhibition game between the two Pacific Division rivals on July 30. Schmaltz suffered a head injury on the play and missed both the qualifying round against the Nashville Predators as well as the first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche.

    In 2020-21, Schmaltz will need to become a more consistent scorer in order to avoid being labeled as a “streaky” player, as was the case with many Coyotes players in the past, most notably so for winger Radim Vrbata, who was notorious for going long stretches without scoring before coming out of seemingly nowhere to dominate the opposition and light up the scoresheet.

    Radim Vrbata, Arizona Coyotes
    Radim Vrbata was notorious for his streaky play at the offensive end of the ice. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

    For example, over the final 41 contests of the 2013-14 campaign, Vrbata had a three-game heater where he collected five assists, which was followed by a stretch where the veteran posted six points in 18 games, which was immediately followed by a six-point outburst across four games, which was then followed by a season-ending cold streak with a goal and four assists in 16 games.

    In order to live up to his $5.85 million salary over the next six seasons, Schmaltz must avoid becoming just another skilled but streaky NHL forward. Obviously, it’s unrealistic to expect Schmaltz to consistently score 15 points in 13-game stretches throughout the year (as discussed above), but the potential is there for the former first-round pick to be a 60 to 70-point player in the league. It’s why the Coyotes gave him a $41 million contract extension, and it’s time for him, along with Keller and Kessel, to step up and be difference-makers for Arizona in 2020-21.


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