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Femtech firms are at last enjoying an investment boom – The Economist

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A HORMONE CALLED relaxin helps loosen up pregnant women’s hips. Without it, the pain of delivery would be unbearable. Its job done, however, relaxin lingers in female bodies for up to a year, when softer ligaments make new mothers more prone to injury, as Jessica Ennis-Hill, an Olympic champion heptathlete, discovered in training after giving birth in 2014. Five years later Dame Jessica started Jennis, a fitness app to help other women perform safe post-natal workouts. It now lets users optimise workouts for the different phases of their menstrual cycles, and has just concluded a successful funding round.

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Dame Jessica’s startup is part of a wave of “femtech” firms coming up with ways for women to overcome health problems specific to their sex. The market could more than double from $22.5bn last year to more than $65bn by 2027, reckons Global Market Insights, a research firm. Having ignored it for years—in 2020 femtech received only 3% of all health-tech funding, and a modest $14bn has been invested in it globally to date—venture capitalists are at last waking up to the opportunity. So far this year they have invested nearly $1.2bn in the industry, nearly half as much again as the annual record in 2019 (see chart 1).

Last year Bayer, a big German drugmaker, paid $425m to buy KaNDy, a British developer of a non-hormonal treatment for menopause symptoms, and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder, backed BIOMILQ, a startup that has produced cell-cultured human breast milk and aims to bring both parents closer to their newborns. In August Maven Clinic, an American startup which began as a femtech but has expanded to other areas of health, raised $110m and achieved “unicorn” status, with a valuation of more than $1bn. In September Elvie, another British firm, raised $97m from venture-capital firms.

Unlike heath tech aimed at men, which often focuses on erectile dysfunction, a condition that afflicts perhaps one in ten potential users, femtech offers products like period trackers, which could be of value to virtually all of the world’s 4bn women at some point in their lives. Moreover, women are 75% likelier than men to adopt digital tools for health care. That makes for a huge potential market.

A big reason femtech has been slow to grow has to do with the underlying medical science. For conditions that affect all humans, men are more commonly studied, largely owing to misplaced worries that women’s hormonal fluctuations can confound results (male mice are favoured for the same reason). In the few more inclusive studies, results are seldom disaggregated by sex, obscuring how diseases—and the drugs used to treat them—affect women differently. “We have been operating as if women are just smaller versions of men,” observes Alisa Vitti, a hormone expert whose work on the 29-day “infradian” body clock, which affects everything from metabolism to sensitivity to pain and is a uniquely female phenomenon, underpins many period trackers.

As a result, plenty of woman-specific health issues have, despite their ubiquity, been routinely neglected. Femtechs help fill this research gap. Noting that eight in ten women suffer from premenstrual pain but no treatments have been specifically designed to allay it, founders of Daye, a British startup, designed a tampon laced with cannabidiol, after observing that the vaginal canal has more cannabinoid receptors than any other part of the female body.

Hertility Health, also of Britain, offers non-invasive tests which can help diagnose nine common gynaecological conditions. Elvie’s silent wearable breast pump is a best-seller in America and Britain; its app-controlled pelvic-floor trainer reduces the chances of the typical intervention, whereby surgeons insert “a fishing net and lift up your pelvic organs because they are falling out of your vagina”, says Tania Boler, the firm’s founder.

Labour pains

That is welcome progress. But too many femtechs face an uphill struggle. Helen O’Neill, who runs Hertility Health, calls the $5.7m funding round her firm closed in June a “soul-destroying” process. “It was predominantly grey-haired men saying they are not sure there is a market for this,” she says. Never mind that all women with a reproductive system require gynaecological help at some point.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Girls uninterrupted”

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Boris Johnson Says UK Doesn't Want to Turn Away Chinese Investment – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is not about to “pitchfork away” offers of Chinese investment despite the concerns of some of his own lawmakers. 

Decisions to bar Chinese companies from Britain’s fifth-generation communication networks and nuclear power, and condemnation of China’s human-rights record have soured relations with Beijing over the last few years, but Johnson maintains he is pro-China. 

“I am no Sinophobe — very far from it,” Johnson said in an interview with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait on Monday. “I’m not going to tell you that the U.K. government is going to pitchfork away every overture from China.”

Read More: Johnson Hosts Business Leaders’ Dinner Amid U.K. Investment Push

Johnson was speaking ahead of an investment conference in London on Tuesday designed to boost investment into the U.K. and just a fortnight before he hosts the Cop-26 climate summit in Scotland. With Chinese President Xi Jinping likely to be absent from the summit, concerns are growing China may refuse to set new climate change goals and deprive Johnson of a clear win on tackling global warming.

U.K. imports from China amounted to 67.6 billion pounds ($92.8 billion) in the year through June, according to U.K. statistics, a rise of nearly 40% from the previous year. That makes China the U.K.’s third largest trading partner.

“China is a gigantic part of our economic life and will be for a long time — for our lifetimes,” Johnson said. “But that does not mean that we should be naive in the way that we look at our critical national infrastructure.”

The government has said that Chinese firms are welcome to invest in non-strategic parts of the economy but Johnson refused to spell out exactly where he would draw the line. “You’d have to look at what you’re defining as strategic,” he said. 

As part of the investment conference, Huaneng will invest in a 50-megawatt battery project. 

The U.K. has already introduced legislation making it harder for foreign investors to take significant stakes in critical national infrastructure. 

Read More: China Blasts ‘Despicable’ U.K. Move to Ban Envoy From Parliament

Last month, China’s ambassador to London, Zheng Zeguang, was prevented from participating in a meeting in the U.K. Parliament in a case that crystallized the conflicting attitudes among Tory MPs. 

Zheng had been asked to attend by Conservative member Richard Graham, who chairs a group of lawmakers seeking to foster good relations with China. But the invitation drew outrage from others who have been sanctioned by Beijing for speaking out over alleged human rights abuses and the invitation was canceled by Parliamentary Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. 

Beijing has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority and insists crackdowns in Hong Kong are to prevent insurrection. 

Johnson insisted that the relationship can prosper “in spite of all the difficult conversations about the Dalai Lama or Hong Kong or the Uyghurs.”

“Actually trade with China has continued to expand for a very long time and I think probably will continue to expand for the rest of our lives,” he said. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Morrisons investors set to rubber stamp $10 billion CD&R takeover

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Shareholders in supermarket group Morrisons are expected on Tuesday to approve a 7 billion pound ($9.6 billion) offer by U.S. private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), bringing the curtain down on Britain’s most fiercely contested takeover this year.

CD&R, which has former Tesco boss Terry Leahy as a senior adviser, won an auction for Morrisons on Oct. 2, bidding a penny a share more than a consortium led by Softbank owned Fortress Investment Group.

Investor approval for the deal will conclude a six-month battle to buy Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer and one of the country’s biggest food producers.

It will end Morrisons’ 54-year run as a publicly listed company and see the ultimate decisions on the group’s future shift from its Bradford, northern England, base to the New York home of CD&R.

Morrisons, which started out as an egg and butter merchant in 1899, trails market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda in annual revenue.

The battle for Morrisons has been the most high-profile amid a raft of bids for British companies this year, reflecting private equity’s appetite for cash-generating UK assets.

With the winning bid representing a hefty 61% premium on Morrisons’ share price before takeover interest publicly emerged in mid-June, analysts expect little or no dissent.

To go through CD&R’s offer needs the support of shareholders representing at least 75% in value of voting investors at the meeting, which is being held both physically and virtually.

CD&R has committed to retaining Morrisons’ Bradford headquarters and its existing management team, led by CEO David Potts.

It has also said it will execute the supermarket chain’s existing strategy, not sell its freehold store estate and maintain staff pay rates.

These commitments are not legally binding, however.

If, as expected, shareholders approve the offer, CD&R could complete its takeover by the end of the month, making Morrisons the second UK supermarket chain in a year to be acquired by private equity after a buyout of No. 3 player Asda, by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital, completed in February.

($1 = 0.7284 pounds)

 

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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New York directs two cryptocurrency lending platforms to cease activity

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Two cryptocurrency lending platforms were asked to cease activities in New York by the state’s attorney general on Monday and three other platforms were directed to provide information about their business.

The move comes weeks after New York Attorney General Letitia James won a court order forcing the closure of cryptocurrency exchange Coinseed.

In a redacted version of a letter dated Monday, James said the Office of the Attorney General “was in possession of evidence of unlawfully selling or offering for sale securities and/or commodities”.

Regulators in the U.S. have been ratcheting up scrutiny of a world that has so far existed in a regulatory gray area, against the backdrop of rising tension between the crypto industry and regulators worldwide.

James filed a lawsuit in February to shut down Coinseed for allegedly defrauding thousands of investors, including by charging hidden trading fees and selling “worthless” digital tokens.

The state’s attorney general warned investors about “extreme risk” when investing in cryptocurrency and issued warnings to those facilitating in the trading of virtual currencies.

“Cryptocurrency platforms must follow the law, just like everyone else, which is why we are now directing two crypto companies to shut down and forcing three more to answer questions immediately,” James said on Monday.

 

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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