Finance

“All that glitters is not gold” — Growing valuation bubble of Indian start-ups

by Sandeep Kumar

 The valuation game

The Venture Capital valuation is a simple game, but never an easy one. While there is little to learn, to play it perfectly takes years, if not decades of experience under the belt.

So how do the VCs arrive at that valuation figure? Market Opportunity? Product Market Fit? Strong Founder Team? Disruptive Product Offering? Extensive Network Economics?

Nah.

Capital invested divided by the stake diluted. That’s it!

The VC chooses the amount of capital he is ready to deploy and the stake he wants to have in the company. Of course, the wish is to part with the least capital for the most stake. Now coming up with these two numbers, the capital chunk to invest and the amount of stake to buy, this is where experience comes in.

The winning bet in your portfolio

Most VCs have personal favorite ranges which they are comfortable with. Some VCs may like to hold only a few concentrated bets while others may want to deploy small amounts into numerous startups. The premise is the same. Each VC wishes to hold at least one winner in its portfolio, the winning bet that ‘returns the fund’.

This gets us to staging. The valuations do nothing to the VC portfolio, except increase the unrealized returns section, which, as the name suggests, are ‘unrealized’ and don’t mean anything unless the company makes an exit from that valuation.

But what if the company is not yet ready for an IPO or a buyout?

The VCs of course know this. Hence when they get together to finance a startup at some stage, let’s say series A, they are offering just enough money to take the startup to the next funding stage. This continues until the IPO or buyout.

Nowhere do the VCs use the DCF or any other model to find a fair value of the shares of the startup. Startup valuation is not a valuation game, it’s a pricing game. It is not about finding a startup trading at a lower than its fair value price and hoping the market corrects itself, the game is about finding another buyer who will be ready to pay higher. All this has nothing to do with cash flows generated from the assets held by the startup, adjusted for the underlying risks of all sorts (DCF basically). All these valuations are nothing more than exhaust fumes as suggested by Fred Wilson, an NYC based VC:

“Early-stage valuations aren’t valuations. They are the exhaust fumes of negotiation about two things — the amount raised and the amount of dilution.”

The information asymmetry

Now let’s take a look at what we have: You are a VC that is trying to get a stake in some startup. What do you do to get an idea of how much you should pay? You don’t have DCF or any other model to help. So, you look at what similar companies have been valued at. With new business models operating in diverse geographies, you realize that it is hard to say how you can define a similar company. Let’s say you came up with food delivery as one category. Despite the difference in the business models, one can hardly cobble together a list of 4–5 startups in the Indian space.

So, the VC game is plagued with opaque, inconsistent deal information. While the figures the VC arrives at are most probably wrong and have nothing to do with reality, they have nothing to worry about as long as they are able to find someone who’s ready to buy at a higher price from them.

The Indian startups in numbers

The past few years have been a gala time for the Indian startups who have managed to secure funding unabated despite the pandemic and its blues.

Startups in India managed to raise $7.8 Bn until April itself. This is a significant number almost 70% of the total $12.1 Bn raised in 2020 and more than 50% of $14.2 billion raised in 2019.

The average funding size has increased to $25.21 Mn, up from $14.94 Mn in 2020. There have been 402 funding rounds until April itself, against 1,114 deals in 2020 and 1,036 in 2019.

Overvaluation and the global landscape

The push towards absurd overvaluations has been a result of the negative interest rate environment. Post the GFC, there was heavy lending and even more borrowing. So much so that people had to pay up money just so that they could lend money. Of course, this led people to look for alternative avenues to park their money and generate juicy returns. The baseless optimism and hollow belief in spotting the next Bezos, Zuck, or Musk have led to an audacious amount of money flowing in, creating completely senseless valuations, having no roots in reality.

Tesla, more than $13 Bn in debt at the end of last year, recently had a market capitalization of $160 Bn, greater than General Motors and Ford combined. At the IPO price, Square was valued at close to $3 Bn, which is 50% below the $6 Bn valuations for which it had raised money from private investors a year before. Uber which in accounting terms stands at around 5x times its revenues, is also grossly overvalued as it is nowhere close to being the leader in the driverless car’s space. WeWork tried to go for a $47 Bn listing but ended up getting corrected to $8 Bn.

The WeWork fiasco was dubbed as a wake-up call in a Morgan Stanley report stating that the days of ‘’ were over.

Unicorns were considered rare. Today, however, the United States has a herd of more than 100 of them, with 100 more outside the US. Each worth a billion dollars or more.

Will history repeat itself?

Let’s talk about the Indian scenario and the startups which we believe are overvalued and most likely to come back to their intrinsic value as and when the markets correct themselves.

1. Byju’s: World’s most valuable Ed-Tech Company

Byju’s operates an online learning platform. It also creates a mobile app for pupils that offers a variety of learning activities. Exam preparation classes are also available. Original material, watch-and-learn movies, rich animations, and interactive simulations are all available to users on the site. The firm is having an EV/Revenue multiple of 17x.

It is the only major player in the Ed-Tech space in India, which has led the company to raise multiple rounds of funding and leading to an enormous increase in valuation. Knowledge in today’s world is free, however, Byju’s creates unique content with animation and the product often seems to be overpriced. In recent times there were a number of instances on various social media platforms where people questioned the pressure on the sales team and how Byju’s is so concerned about their sales when they try to push their offering in the market.

In the long run, the expected return from Byju’s is questionable. Below is the chart of the revenue and valuation of Byju’s over the last five years.

2. Cred — The borrower’s messiah

Losses in billions of dollars are nothing new for hyper-funded companies, especially when they’re chasing size and consumers at any cost. CRED’s metrics tell a tale in and of itself. CRED has made a profit of $71,000 in its second year of operation. CRED hasn’t been able to monetize its user base in FY20, despite acquiring a large customer base with a high propensity to spend and consume.

While the two-year-old company’s sales remained low, its total expenditure increased by more than 5.9 times to $52 Mn in FY20, compared to $9 Mn in FY19. The greatest cost center for the financial firm was advertisement and marketing, which accounted for 47.6% of total expenditure. From $3 Mn in FY19, such costs increased by 9.3 times to$25 Mn. During the fiscal year that ended in March 2020, CRED spent Rs 726.7 to earn a single rupee of operating revenue. CRED’s yearly loss in FY20 was INR 360.3 Crore, up 5.9 times from the $8 Mn it lost in FY19. The current cash burn is difficult to sustain, with an appalling EBITDA margin of -1979.5% in FY20, and the company will have to focus on its collections.

Despite registering astronomical losses it has attained a unicorn status by raising its valuation to $2.2 Bn in 2021. It is worth noting that the company is founded and led by Kunal Shah who is a known name in the start-up world for founding and leading numerous companies which may be an explanation behind the astronomical valuation of Cred. The graph below shows the valuation and losses of Cred over the years.

3. CarDekho — India’s leading car search venture

CarDekho helps users buy cars along with expert reviews, detailed specs, and prices, comparisons as well as videos and pictures of all car brands and models available in India. It has recently acquired an auto marketplace, Carmudi (Philippines) in late 2019 to expand business in Southeast Asia. GirnarSoft, the parent company of Jaipur-based automobile-related services behemoth CarDekho, has seen its losses increase by 155% to $45 Mn in FY2020. This comes after the company’s losses had already increased by 39% in the previous year.

Despite that CarDekho has managed to raise its valuation. Last year, Cars24, a CarDekho competitor, increased its consolidated revenue to $418 Mn and achieved unicorn valuation, and has a much lower EV/Revenue multiple. Let us now see the EV/Revenue Multiple of the peers in this game through the table below.

As per the last reported revenue and valuation figures.

We can infer from the table that CarDekho has a huge EV/Revenue multiple which signifies that the valuation of the firm is increasing at a much faster rate with respect to the revenue that the company generates, leading to overvaluation of the company. The graph below shows the valuation and revenue of CarDekho.

4. Unacademy

Unacademy is a Bangalore-based educational technology startup in India. Unacademy lessons are available in the form of Live Classes, which are both free and available on a subscription basis. Unacademy earned $12 Mn in revenue but spent $53 Mn, resulting in a loss of INR 300 crore. Employee benefits accounted for 23.7% of the edtech start-up’s costs, while other expenses accounted for 75%.

While 2020 brought plenty of development, the corporation would need to significantly increase its expenditures to reverse the losses it had in the fiscal year 2020, which ends on March 31, 2020. Unacademy’s revenue in FY21 is estimated to be over $55 Mn. It’s worth $3 Bn or approximately 35 times the expected income. The graph shows the valuation and loss of BharatPe.

5. BharatPe

When we talk about e-commerce giants, PayTm, Amazon, and Flipkart all wanted payments to take place within their own closed networks. BharatPe’s goal was to achieve what all the large brands were afraid to do: simplify things for retailers by adopting a standardized interoperable QR code. It allowed shops, street food vendors, and tea vendors to accept payments using any UPI app (PhonePe, Google Pay, PayTM, and so on) without having to download the apps. It was a simple and cost-effective approach with an added layer of security. The payment system’s complexity was reduced by a factor of ten by combining multiple UPI apps into a single sticker.

BharatPe was able to achieve early success by keeping things simple. BharatPe’s product strategy is based on making things simple for merchants, and the company uses P2M transactions as a springboard for future services. Because BharatPe does not charge merchants a setup or transaction fee, its fundamental feature money collection using QR codes is essentially a loss-maker for the company. It must spend a large amount of money to manage the servers that process millions of transactions every day. However, this provides BharatPe access to merchants who are passionate about their products and eagerly accept their offers. Despite having no visible revenue stream and without even earning a penny, the valuation of the company is increasing, and currently, it stands at $900 Mn, very close to the unicorn status. The graph shows the valuation and revenue of BharatPe.

The apprehensive loop of growing valuations

The indications are all too familiar. With large markets, illustrious founders, rapid growth, and top early-stage VCs on your side, you have a good chance of raising the next big round, even if you don’t yet have unicorn status (the desired billion-dollar value). And when major acquisitions are made for unproven companies, and valuations double or triple in a matter of months, it begs the question: are we in a bubble? This is always a challenge because most people only realize they were in an economic bubble after it has burst in the past.

Rich valuation multiples have also spread from the typical suspects — consumer internet companies — to enterprise software providers. This is a first. SoftBank, for example, invested in Mindtickle last year, valuing it at $500 Mn based on estimated revenue of $20 Mn — $25 Mn. Even SaaS companies in the United States, including Slack, Zoom, Snowflake, and Cloudflare, have gone public in recent years with great success. Sentiment in India often comes straight from the United States, particularly in related industries and from funds that invest in both nations, including several of India’s leading venture capital firms. Startup valuations are also affected by how publicly traded firms trade if retail investors are ready to pay high prices for loss-making companies, whether banks financing a share issue can find enough at a given price, and so on. There isn’t a single bubble across the board. Because of the vast quantity of money available in the market, investors are willing to pay a premium for good business. But that should be done judiciously.

Investors beware

For the first time in years, it’s possible to claim that private markets are more logical than public markets. If stock markets are the yardstick, select pricey companies may not be overvalued. A closer examination of what constitutes a bubble, as well as what Indian entrepreneurs are doing, reveals a more complete picture. Growth investing has been positive in industries that have recovered quickly from the epidemic, and there has been a lot of interest in a few market leaders. At such levels, one would expect some amount of rationalization. Investors must evaluate the prospects and the future road map of a company before investing. As more investments flow into a company without a proper business model or less revenue, it results in overvaluation creating a bubble. Investors can lose a colossal sum by not choosing the right company.

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This article has been co-authored by Sayan Mitra and  , who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

Startup investing 101: The HNI’s guide to investments beyond the conventional asset class

by Sandeep Kumar

Why invest in startups?

Investing in a startup is a high-risk, high reward game

Deciding the right opportunity and best practices for investing in a startup

Ways to invest in startups

Delaying the IPO comes with certain advantages for Startups

How startup investing really works

When can you expect a return or are you locked in forever?

Source: Pitchbook and CBInsights

Exits are what investors care about, but many founders dream of becoming a unicorn and avoid using the word “exit” until it’s too late. Despite this, M&As accounted for 97% of departures in 2020. And the majority of them occurred prior to Series B.

Exit or no exit: A fatal call

In a low-yield world, is Pre-IPO investing the hidden secret to higher yields?

by Sandeep Kumar

  • Pre-IPO secondary transactions are growing, and over the past few years have consistently generated higher returns over other traditional asset classes
  • Startups are remaining private longer. The average age of technology companies going public has gone from 4 years in 1999 to 11+ years now. As a result, several broker networks and pre-IPO marketplaces have emerged to provide liquidity to early-stage investors and employees
  • Our analysis shows that secondary investments in mature startups 2–3 years prior to a liquidation event have yielded between 40%-70% annualized returns with fairly high success rates. That’s not a typo!
  • Case in point — Slack went public with IPO priced at $38.5 per share, earning around 200% above the last private funding round 10 months prior to the IPO
  • However, investing in Pre-IPO is no silver bullet. Just like all other forms of investing, you can go wrong and will go wrong. Imagine investing in Airbnb in 2017, or in Bytedance in Dec 2019. Airbnb’s valuation has halved since, while Bytedance has taken a nosedive.

It’s been busy year for public markets. The pandemic shock and resulting global economic turmoil has seen world exchanges experience a never before roller-coaster ride in the last few months. What with the V-shaped recovery in the stock markets and emergence of Robinhood traders across the world, equity is the name of the game right now. A slew of technology startups is slated to come up with IPOs in the next 12 months, and people are actively debating investing in these IPOs for listing gains.

There is a set of investors, however, who already own shares in most of these Pre-IPO companies, and are waiting for listing gains. They purchased these shares either directly from angel investors, early-stage VCs, and employees holding vested ESOPs or from one of the secondary marketplaces mostly available in the US.

To give you some perspective, our team went back 5 years and looked at the secondary market valuation histories of all IPOs that happened during this period.

(All numbers are taken from actual secondary transactions. Data for a few years in not available.)

Returns realized from investing in Pre-IPO companies 1/2/3/4 years prior to IPO event startups

If you don’t like dense tables, let us call out a few things:

  • If you had invested $ 10,000 in Beyond Meat on 02 Oct 2015, it would be worth $ 102,000 as on 02 May 2019, the date of listing.
  • If you participated in a secondary transaction as on 21 Sep 2018 in Lyft, you would make a cool 150% return in about 6 months. On the other hand, if you bought Lyft as a retail investor in the IPO, you would be sitting on an approx. 70% loss right now.
  • On a more modest note, an investment in DropBox or Uber in late 2015 would earn you only a 2–3% annualized return, highlighting that not all hits are a homerun.
  • Other notable names are Slack (42% annualized return), Roku (88% annualized return), and Coupa (104% annualized return)

Our outside-in neutral perspective can be summed up as:

  • If you make a good selection (right about 60–70% of the time) of investing in the right startups in the secondary markets, the returns far outweigh any other asset class with comparable risk.
  • The biggest benefit to the investor according to me is the shortened investment period. Shorter the time period, lesser chances of something going wrong. In the time that it takes to invest and wait in an early-stage VC, you could churn your money twice and maybe make higher, but more certain returns. Corollary being that shorter the investment time horizon, shorter can be the returns as well.
  • You get to invest in high-growth Unicorns at an earlier stage before the company goes public and leftover gains are distributed.
  • A mature startup is slightly more stable, has proven product-market fit, has hopefully learned how to scale, and has a proven team that works well together. All this adds up to slightly higher principal protection.
  • Don’t go for overhyped startups, irrespective of how mature a startup is, you have to make a call on if the valuation has some margin of safety built in.

What is a Pre-IPO marketplace and how does it work?

Pre-IPO marketplace is a private market where the private company shares exchange hands between private (almost always accredited) investors. Pre-IPO shares are generally held by founders, employees and early-stage angels/VCs. Sometimes the holding period becomes just too long to tolerate (ask any early investors of Palantir!). VCs need to show performance and return capital, angels and company employees need liquidity. Ergo, the need to sell shares in the secondary market to new investors. Please note one important distinction. In a secondary sale, the company does not receive any proceeds from the sale, it is shareholders exchanging monies and assets.

With private markets maturing and investors getting more sophisticated, this secondary market has expanded rapidly over the past 4–5 years. The development of broker networks and secondary marketplace have reduced some of the liquidity concerns of the investors and contributed to the rapid growth.

How real are the returns?

Historically, stock markets have given returns of ~10% annually. But investing in select Pre-IPO companies, such as high growth tech startups can provide substantially higher returns. With a larger number of companies choosing to stay private for a longer-term, many investors (majorly retail) miss out on the ultra-high growth stage of the company. This is the stage where the company’s valuations rise multifold and retail investors miss out on the substantial portion of the returns waiting for the IPO to happen. Also, IPO is not the only liquidation event, instead there are a lot more corporates and private equities acquiring mature startups.

Take the example of the Direct listing of Slack, a popular workplace collaboration tool that went public in 2019. The Company raised series A funding in 2009 and decided to take 10 years to go public. Slack’s stock was valued at $11.91 per share in the last VC funding round 2018. Within a year, Slack’s shares after IPO opened at $38.5 per share, implying an approximately $23 Bn fully-diluted valuation Company’s price closed at 225% above the last private funding round 10 months ago.

Few other success stories in the last few years:

Zoom is a global video communication platform that went live with an IPO in April 2019. Zoom went live at a valuation of $10 Billion with shares priced at $36, by the day close shares traded at $62. Zoom in the last VC round raised $115million putting the company’s pre-money valuation at $885.03 million (at $14.97 per share).

Beyond Meat is a plant-based meat producer that went public in May 2019. The company’s IPO was priced at $25 per share, valuing the company to $1.5billion. By the end of the day shares were trading at $65 per share. The company last raised $50 million in 2018 at a valuation of $1.3 billion, with shares priced at $16.15 per share.

ForeScout is a network security monitory firm that went public in 2017, 17 years after it started its operations in 2000. Till date company has raised around $300 Mn in funding. In the last funding round company was valued at $1 Bn, but when the company went public the valuation of the company dropped to ~$800 Mn. This is an example of a situation where things didn’t go as planned.

Allocating a small portion of your portfolio to Pre-IPO high-growth securities can provide opportunities of earning substantially higher returns than investing in public markets, with risks lower than that of the initial stage VC investors. But it is no silver bullet where all the bets are winners, you have to be selective and meticulous in the due diligence of private companies before investing to earn substantial returns in Pre-IPO secondary market. Buyers beware!

Where will the Secondary pre-IPO Market go from here?

Private markets have grown and matured over the past two decades. Since 2002, Global Private Equity asset value has grown more than twice the rate of public market capitalization. At the same time, the private equity secondary market has also seen tremendous growth in volume. We believe that a similar progression of events may happen in the startup secondary market as well. Once very insignificant, the pre-IPO secondary market has evolved to become a very useful mechanism for founders, ESOP owners, CXOs to liquidate their private securities, either partially or fully. Companies now tend to remain private for longer period of time and thus increasing the relevance of the secondary market. Secondary pre-IPO market has seen a continuous growth in transaction volume and has become a reliable source to get differential exposure and skip the J curve. The chart below indicates the rising secondaries transaction volume.

What’s driving the growth of the Secondary pre-IPO market?

1. Longer gestation period to a liquidity event

To date, there are 400 unicorn startups (private companies that are valued above $1 Bn) globally. With large corporates and funds willing to back these companies, they don’t have a huge incentive to go public to raise funds. Going public also exponentially increases the compliance and reporting needs. According to McKinsey & Company, the average age of U.S. technology companies that went public in 1999 was four years. By 2014, that average rose to 11 years and the trend is on the rise. There could be many reasons factoring in a company’s decision to delay raising capital from public:

  • Additional cost involved
  • Incurring new and ongoing operational requirements (filing financial statements)
  • Losing autonomy
  • Risk of takeovers
  • The dreaded IPO flops
  • The delayed IPO exits have led investors to look for other options to exit and diminish liquidity concerns.

2. Founders need liquidity, VCs need to show successful exits

I was speaking to a founder who has been running a very successful tech startup in the valley for the past 10 years and may take another 4–5 years to successfully do an IPO or sell out. The problem is, he needs liquidity today to fund his kids’ education, mortgage, and other obligations.

VCs with a fund life of 10–11 years at times are unable to liquidate all their investments within this period. Given the need to return capital to investors, it can also become imperative to sell a portion of the portfolio in the secondary market. Whatever be the reason, the fact remains that there is increasing high-quality supply available in the secondary market.

3. Increased secondary market efficacy

With the advent of multiple offline brokers and online platforms (such as Torre Capital), it has become easy for founders to connect with buyers looking to acquire stake in unicorn startups. Increasing tokenization of asset classes using technology has also helped reduce investment minimums, documentation, and timelines.

How does the Pre-IPO market actually work?

Investing in Pre IPO shares generally can be done in a few ways.

  • One way to invest in unicorn startups is via Brokers or advisory firms that specialize in Pre-IPO secondary transactions. Using offline brokers or investment banks requires a large transaction size (a couple of million at least) and may come with high transaction charges (sometimes up to 10%), and longer lead times.
  • Another upcoming way is to list your shares on a secondary platform which then collates a set of shares and offers it to its existing investor network. The drawback here is that unless you are offering shares of very well-recognized startups, there may not be enough demand.

Taking an example of company XYZ. The Company was founded in 2010 and the founder owns 100% of the shares (complete ownership). Company raises 1M at the post-money valuation of 10Mn. Thus, the early-stage investor owns 10% of the shares and the founder owns the remaining 90%. Over the next few years, multiple investors invest in a company and the valuation of the company also rises. Founders and early investors have a large portion of their wealth locked in the company stock. Traditionally, the only way for them to liquidate their share was for the company to go public or engage in an M&A transaction. But now, they can opt to sell a portion of their shares on a secondary platform and enjoy the benefits of their labor while continuing to grow their company.

We at Torre Capital provide our investors access to best-in-class startups, and shareholders easy liquidity in two ways:

  • You can opt to list and sell your shares outright on our platform. Our investors are always looking for high quality opportunities to invest in.
  • If you don’t wish to sell your shares, or can’t because of restrictions, you can also secure a loan from Torre Capital against your shares.

With our broad network across the globe and many collaborations, we bring to our investors the best of opportunities while allowing startup shareholders fast access to liquidity.

Pre-IPO market comes with its own set of risks investors should be aware of

Private markets are growing and maturing at a fast pace but investing in the Pre-IPO private equity market and securities in the secondary market carries extra layers of risk over investing in public securities such as bonds and public equity. Some of the risks that a secondary market investor bear is:

  • Risk of IPO not going live or getting delayed

There is a small risk even with high growth unicorns that the IPO may not go through, or the company may further delay going public. This risk is generally mitigated by the discount at which the Pre-IPO securities are available. But the probability of not going live and the inability to find other exit options is always present.

  • Sudden reduction in liquidity or valuation because of black swan events

Take the example of Bytedance. Till December last year, you could not get hold of shares of Bytedance even at inflated premiums. Due to the happenings over the past six months, investors who came in the past 12 years might find it quite difficult to exit their investment. WeWork is another example that has been much talked about. Such situations can’t be ruled out completely. The secondary private market has an inherent liquidity risk as the number of buyers and sellers in the market is limited. Also, there is no one centralized platform or stock exchange with market makers.

  • Information Asymmetry

Private securities in the secondary market are not held to same reporting standards as those on the public side. This makes it much harder for an investor to evaluate a private company. Founders and managers holding the security have more information available than the buyer and have no big incentive to share the information in the market. This information gap adds the risk and impacts investor confidence in the secondary market.

In conclusion

We firmly believe that Pre-IPO markets for mature/unicorn startups is going to expand exponentially over the next 5–10 years, and investors should carefully examine the opportunities available. If suitable for their risk profile and portfolio size, this can be a great asset class to allocate 5–10% of your portfolio to in order to improve overall returns and reduce dependence on traditional investments.

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This article has been co-authored by Daksh Arya and Sargam Palod who are in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

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“All that glitters is not gold” — Growing valuation bubble of Indian start-ups

by Sandeep Kumar

 The valuation game

The Venture Capital valuation is a simple game, but never an easy one. While there is little to learn, to play it perfectly takes years, if not decades of experience under the belt.

So how do the VCs arrive at that valuation figure? Market Opportunity? Product Market Fit? Strong Founder Team? Disruptive Product Offering? Extensive Network Economics?

Nah.

Capital invested divided by the stake diluted. That’s it!

The VC chooses the amount of capital he is ready to deploy and the stake he wants to have in the company. Of course, the wish is to part with the least capital for the most stake. Now coming up with these two numbers, the capital chunk to invest and the amount of stake to buy, this is where experience comes in.

The winning bet in your portfolio

Most VCs have personal favorite ranges which they are comfortable with. Some VCs may like to hold only a few concentrated bets while others may want to deploy small amounts into numerous startups. The premise is the same. Each VC wishes to hold at least one winner in its portfolio, the winning bet that ‘returns the fund’.

This gets us to staging. The valuations do nothing to the VC portfolio, except increase the unrealized returns section, which, as the name suggests, are ‘unrealized’ and don’t mean anything unless the company makes an exit from that valuation.

But what if the company is not yet ready for an IPO or a buyout?

The VCs of course know this. Hence when they get together to finance a startup at some stage, let’s say series A, they are offering just enough money to take the startup to the next funding stage. This continues until the IPO or buyout.

Nowhere do the VCs use the DCF or any other model to find a fair value of the shares of the startup. Startup valuation is not a valuation game, it’s a pricing game. It is not about finding a startup trading at a lower than its fair value price and hoping the market corrects itself, the game is about finding another buyer who will be ready to pay higher. All this has nothing to do with cash flows generated from the assets held by the startup, adjusted for the underlying risks of all sorts (DCF basically). All these valuations are nothing more than exhaust fumes as suggested by Fred Wilson, an NYC based VC:

“Early-stage valuations aren’t valuations. They are the exhaust fumes of negotiation about two things — the amount raised and the amount of dilution.”

The information asymmetry

Now let’s take a look at what we have: You are a VC that is trying to get a stake in some startup. What do you do to get an idea of how much you should pay? You don’t have DCF or any other model to help. So, you look at what similar companies have been valued at. With new business models operating in diverse geographies, you realize that it is hard to say how you can define a similar company. Let’s say you came up with food delivery as one category. Despite the difference in the business models, one can hardly cobble together a list of 4–5 startups in the Indian space.

So, the VC game is plagued with opaque, inconsistent deal information. While the figures the VC arrives at are most probably wrong and have nothing to do with reality, they have nothing to worry about as long as they are able to find someone who’s ready to buy at a higher price from them.

The Indian startups in numbers

The past few years have been a gala time for the Indian startups who have managed to secure funding unabated despite the pandemic and its blues.

Startups in India managed to raise $7.8 Bn until April itself. This is a significant number almost 70% of the total $12.1 Bn raised in 2020 and more than 50% of $14.2 billion raised in 2019.

The average funding size has increased to $25.21 Mn, up from $14.94 Mn in 2020. There have been 402 funding rounds until April itself, against 1,114 deals in 2020 and 1,036 in 2019.

Overvaluation and the global landscape

The push towards absurd overvaluations has been a result of the negative interest rate environment. Post the GFC, there was heavy lending and even more borrowing. So much so that people had to pay up money just so that they could lend money. Of course, this led people to look for alternative avenues to park their money and generate juicy returns. The baseless optimism and hollow belief in spotting the next Bezos, Zuck, or Musk have led to an audacious amount of money flowing in, creating completely senseless valuations, having no roots in reality.

Tesla, more than $13 Bn in debt at the end of last year, recently had a market capitalization of $160 Bn, greater than General Motors and Ford combined. At the IPO price, Square was valued at close to $3 Bn, which is 50% below the $6 Bn valuations for which it had raised money from private investors a year before. Uber which in accounting terms stands at around 5x times its revenues, is also grossly overvalued as it is nowhere close to being the leader in the driverless car’s space. WeWork tried to go for a $47 Bn listing but ended up getting corrected to $8 Bn.

The WeWork fiasco was dubbed as a wake-up call in a Morgan Stanley report stating that the days of ‘’ were over.

Unicorns were considered rare. Today, however, the United States has a herd of more than 100 of them, with 100 more outside the US. Each worth a billion dollars or more.

Will history repeat itself?

Let’s talk about the Indian scenario and the startups which we believe are overvalued and most likely to come back to their intrinsic value as and when the markets correct themselves.

1. Byju’s: World’s most valuable Ed-Tech Company

Byju’s operates an online learning platform. It also creates a mobile app for pupils that offers a variety of learning activities. Exam preparation classes are also available. Original material, watch-and-learn movies, rich animations, and interactive simulations are all available to users on the site. The firm is having an EV/Revenue multiple of 17x.

It is the only major player in the Ed-Tech space in India, which has led the company to raise multiple rounds of funding and leading to an enormous increase in valuation. Knowledge in today’s world is free, however, Byju’s creates unique content with animation and the product often seems to be overpriced. In recent times there were a number of instances on various social media platforms where people questioned the pressure on the sales team and how Byju’s is so concerned about their sales when they try to push their offering in the market.

In the long run, the expected return from Byju’s is questionable. Below is the chart of the revenue and valuation of Byju’s over the last five years.

2. Cred — The borrower’s messiah

Losses in billions of dollars are nothing new for hyper-funded companies, especially when they’re chasing size and consumers at any cost. CRED’s metrics tell a tale in and of itself. CRED has made a profit of $71,000 in its second year of operation. CRED hasn’t been able to monetize its user base in FY20, despite acquiring a large customer base with a high propensity to spend and consume.

While the two-year-old company’s sales remained low, its total expenditure increased by more than 5.9 times to $52 Mn in FY20, compared to $9 Mn in FY19. The greatest cost center for the financial firm was advertisement and marketing, which accounted for 47.6% of total expenditure. From $3 Mn in FY19, such costs increased by 9.3 times to$25 Mn. During the fiscal year that ended in March 2020, CRED spent Rs 726.7 to earn a single rupee of operating revenue. CRED’s yearly loss in FY20 was INR 360.3 Crore, up 5.9 times from the $8 Mn it lost in FY19. The current cash burn is difficult to sustain, with an appalling EBITDA margin of -1979.5% in FY20, and the company will have to focus on its collections.

Despite registering astronomical losses it has attained a unicorn status by raising its valuation to $2.2 Bn in 2021. It is worth noting that the company is founded and led by Kunal Shah who is a known name in the start-up world for founding and leading numerous companies which may be an explanation behind the astronomical valuation of Cred. The graph below shows the valuation and losses of Cred over the years.

3. CarDekho — India’s leading car search venture

CarDekho helps users buy cars along with expert reviews, detailed specs, and prices, comparisons as well as videos and pictures of all car brands and models available in India. It has recently acquired an auto marketplace, Carmudi (Philippines) in late 2019 to expand business in Southeast Asia. GirnarSoft, the parent company of Jaipur-based automobile-related services behemoth CarDekho, has seen its losses increase by 155% to $45 Mn in FY2020. This comes after the company’s losses had already increased by 39% in the previous year.

Despite that CarDekho has managed to raise its valuation. Last year, Cars24, a CarDekho competitor, increased its consolidated revenue to $418 Mn and achieved unicorn valuation, and has a much lower EV/Revenue multiple. Let us now see the EV/Revenue Multiple of the peers in this game through the table below.

As per the last reported revenue and valuation figures.

We can infer from the table that CarDekho has a huge EV/Revenue multiple which signifies that the valuation of the firm is increasing at a much faster rate with respect to the revenue that the company generates, leading to overvaluation of the company. The graph below shows the valuation and revenue of CarDekho.

4. Unacademy

Unacademy is a Bangalore-based educational technology startup in India. Unacademy lessons are available in the form of Live Classes, which are both free and available on a subscription basis. Unacademy earned $12 Mn in revenue but spent $53 Mn, resulting in a loss of INR 300 crore. Employee benefits accounted for 23.7% of the edtech start-up’s costs, while other expenses accounted for 75%.

While 2020 brought plenty of development, the corporation would need to significantly increase its expenditures to reverse the losses it had in the fiscal year 2020, which ends on March 31, 2020. Unacademy’s revenue in FY21 is estimated to be over $55 Mn. It’s worth $3 Bn or approximately 35 times the expected income. The graph shows the valuation and loss of BharatPe.

5. BharatPe

When we talk about e-commerce giants, PayTm, Amazon, and Flipkart all wanted payments to take place within their own closed networks. BharatPe’s goal was to achieve what all the large brands were afraid to do: simplify things for retailers by adopting a standardized interoperable QR code. It allowed shops, street food vendors, and tea vendors to accept payments using any UPI app (PhonePe, Google Pay, PayTM, and so on) without having to download the apps. It was a simple and cost-effective approach with an added layer of security. The payment system’s complexity was reduced by a factor of ten by combining multiple UPI apps into a single sticker.

BharatPe was able to achieve early success by keeping things simple. BharatPe’s product strategy is based on making things simple for merchants, and the company uses P2M transactions as a springboard for future services. Because BharatPe does not charge merchants a setup or transaction fee, its fundamental feature money collection using QR codes is essentially a loss-maker for the company. It must spend a large amount of money to manage the servers that process millions of transactions every day. However, this provides BharatPe access to merchants who are passionate about their products and eagerly accept their offers. Despite having no visible revenue stream and without even earning a penny, the valuation of the company is increasing, and currently, it stands at $900 Mn, very close to the unicorn status. The graph shows the valuation and revenue of BharatPe.

The apprehensive loop of growing valuations

The indications are all too familiar. With large markets, illustrious founders, rapid growth, and top early-stage VCs on your side, you have a good chance of raising the next big round, even if you don’t yet have unicorn status (the desired billion-dollar value). And when major acquisitions are made for unproven companies, and valuations double or triple in a matter of months, it begs the question: are we in a bubble? This is always a challenge because most people only realize they were in an economic bubble after it has burst in the past.

Rich valuation multiples have also spread from the typical suspects — consumer internet companies — to enterprise software providers. This is a first. SoftBank, for example, invested in Mindtickle last year, valuing it at $500 Mn based on estimated revenue of $20 Mn — $25 Mn. Even SaaS companies in the United States, including Slack, Zoom, Snowflake, and Cloudflare, have gone public in recent years with great success. Sentiment in India often comes straight from the United States, particularly in related industries and from funds that invest in both nations, including several of India’s leading venture capital firms. Startup valuations are also affected by how publicly traded firms trade if retail investors are ready to pay high prices for loss-making companies, whether banks financing a share issue can find enough at a given price, and so on. There isn’t a single bubble across the board. Because of the vast quantity of money available in the market, investors are willing to pay a premium for good business. But that should be done judiciously.

Investors beware

For the first time in years, it’s possible to claim that private markets are more logical than public markets. If stock markets are the yardstick, select pricey companies may not be overvalued. A closer examination of what constitutes a bubble, as well as what Indian entrepreneurs are doing, reveals a more complete picture. Growth investing has been positive in industries that have recovered quickly from the epidemic, and there has been a lot of interest in a few market leaders. At such levels, one would expect some amount of rationalization. Investors must evaluate the prospects and the future road map of a company before investing. As more investments flow into a company without a proper business model or less revenue, it results in overvaluation creating a bubble. Investors can lose a colossal sum by not choosing the right company.

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This article has been co-authored by Sayan Mitra and  , who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

Asset allocation for new age investing: The key to reaching a higher financial altitude

by Sandeep Kumar

Perhaps you keep telling yourself that you’ll invest when you have more money or that you’ll do it “someday.” Or perhaps you’re concerned that the markets are now fragile, so you’re sitting on the side-lines, waiting for a “better time” to invest. Alternatively, you may believe that you must become a hard-core specialist before you can accomplish anything with your money that approaches investing.

But here’s the thing: delaying it may cost you more than you realise. Experts estimate that 40% of people have lost money due to procrastination. If you wait to invest, you may miss out on some extremely significant financial advantages. In the long term, the sooner you put your money to work, the better off you’ll be.

Long-term economic growth forecasts are crucial for global investors. Equity prices are based on forecasts of future earnings, which are in turn based on forecasts of future economic activity. This dynamic implies that the same variables that drive economic growth will also boost equity values in the long run. Similarly, the predicted long-run real income growth rate is a crucial predictor of the economy’s average real interest rate level, and thus the level of real returns in general. The link between actual and prospective growth (i.e., the degree of slack in the economy) is a fundamental driver of fixed-income returns in the short run.

Asset Allocation: An inevitable step for successful investments

The asset allocation that is appropriate for you at any particular stage in your life is mostly determined by your time horizon and risk tolerance.

  • Risk ToleranceRisk tolerance refers to your readiness to risk losing some or all of your initial investment in exchange for higher prospective returns. An aggressive investor, or one who is willing to take on a high level of risk, is more inclined to risk losing money in order to achieve greater outcomes. A cautious investor, or one who has a limited risk tolerance, prefers investments that will allow him or her to keep their original investment. Conservative investors preserve a “bird in the hand,” while adventurous investors pursue “two in the bush,” as the classic phrase goes.
  • Time Horizon – Your time horizon refers to how many months, years, or decades you intend to invest to reach a specific financial goal. Because he or she can wait out slow economic cycles and the inevitable ups and downs of our markets, an investor with a longer time horizon may feel more comfortable taking on a riskier, or more volatile, investment. Because he or she has a shorter time horizon, an investor saving for a teenager’s college education will likely take on less risk.

Letting go of traditional investments

Traditional investments like FDs already have seen starving interest rates. It will not be unrealistic to assume that soon there will be a time when instead of the bank paying interest on FDs the investors will have to pay the bank to keep their FD being in negative interest rates. Similarly, Mutual funds in maximum cases fail to give a hefty return, the way it is presumed. If we talk about stocks majority of the investors tend to lose money as the act of investing in stocks, bonds, etc. is driven by human psychology and not by numbers. Often investors tend to ignore macroeconomic factors like GDP, Unemployment, etc. We profoundly find investors to have an attitude of going with the flow resulting in over-valuation of a stock and at the end when the bubble bursts there are only tears.

Let’s say if you did run the numbers very carefully but the hardest fact to digest is that the stock market prices don’t only depend on the company’s performance. As we have discussed a number of times that macroeconomic factors are not in the control of any individual investor.  Let us take a glance at the returns that the traditional asset classes have generated through a graph.

Traditional investments were the investors’ favourite since they appeared to provide security and comfort. However, they have a significant and generally noticed secondary effect: a tiny increase in wealth. The rate at which prices rise is referred to as inflation. According to the most recent estimates, India’s inflation rate is around 5% – 6%. This indicates that money loses 5% – 6% of its worth each year. After accounting for inflation, a 4.5% after-tax return on traditional assets will result in negative real returns.The falling interest regime that on for the last few years, drove quite a few of these investors towards Mutual Funds which still fails to provide an optimum return for investors.Following the recent market downturns, interest rate reduction, and the resulting impact on fixed deposit rates, many investors are now questioning if traditional investments are still a smart investment option.

Alternative asset classes for investments an opportunistic future

Alternative assets are less traditional and more unexpected investment options. Alternative asset classes include commodities, real estate, NFT (Digital Art), venture capital, private equity.

  1. Alternative Investments
  • Venture Funds: It is money put into start-ups and small enterprises that have the potential to grow over time. It is a high-risk, high-reward investment that is often made by relatively wealthy people. Even more intriguing is the fact that most traditional venture capital funds are limited partnerships. This means that the money can only be invested once by the fund managers. They must refund the principle and gains to the venture capital fund’s investors if they make an investment and leave for a 3 to 4x return.
  • Private Equity Funds: It is made up of investments made privately and not publicly traded. These investments are made directly into private enterprises by investors. Typically, this funding is raised to fund innovative technology or acquisitions. Success in the private equity markets necessitates a high level of risk tolerance and the capacity to deal with significant illiquidity.
  • Unicorns: Unicorns were formerly depicted by ancient Greeks and Romans as being very quick and light on their hooves, with a horn treasured by merchants and investors. It’s a description that may also be used to today’s unicorn businesses. Investing in unicorns makes sense given low interest rates, continuous technological advancements, and new regulatory benefits. However, there is a contradiction to investing in unicorns: the availability of private equity makes them less likely to go public, yet their aversion to public markets makes their shares difficult to come by.

We have the expertise you need and the service that you deserve at Torre Capital, a VC-funded Singapore-based Financial Technology company. We are creating a fully digital Wealthtech to connect family offices and HNI investors with global opportunities, including alternative assets like Private Equity, Venture Capital, Real Estate Funds, and Hedge Funds.The table below consists of some of the PE/VC Funds with their IRR and Fund size.

  1. Real Estate

Commercial and residential properties, as well as REITs, are all examples of real estate. Real estate consists of land and anything permanently attached to it. REITs, or real estate investment trusts, are businesses that own and operate income-producing real properties. REITs provide investors with the chance to invest in real estate as a kind of financial stability. Transacting in REITs is substantially less expensive and time-consuming than transacting on properties. REITs make a lot more sense as an investing vehicle. Second, it provides investors with a new asset class outside of traditional stock, debt, cash, and gold, so helping to diversify risk. The returns generated by REITs are depicted in the graph below.

Collectibles / NFTs

NFTs are digital works of art that exist on the blockchain network and can take a variety of forms. Memes, video clips, images, music, and even tweets are some of the most popular forms of digital art. When you buy these tokens, just like any other investment, there’s always the possibility of your money growing in value. These digital treasures are non-fungible, which means they can’t be replaced. At the moment, blockchain technology is generating a lot of buzz. Some predict the technology will have the same impact on consumer behaviour as the Internet did. Now let us come to the prime question that is how much to invest in NFTs?

Honestly answering these NFTs (especially Digital Art) revolves around the concept that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Hence when you buy something unique and the other person sees the same value in it and the demand increases the prices also shoot up. It will be wise to say that an investor can always explore this option with extra wealth.

 

  1. Cryptocurrencies

In the last five years (ending 31 December 2020), the S&P 500 index of large-cap US equities has compounded at an annualized growth rate of 14.5% (in USD, net dividends reinvested); over the same time period, the price of bitcoin in USD has compounded at an annualized growth rate of 131.5%. Now if we consider Etherium it also has given a hefty return of 500% in 1 Year. If this still feels normal, then let’s talk about some astronomical figures like in the case of Dogecoin or Meme coin as it was named earlier has given a return of around 20000% in a year.

Apologies if you felt a minor heart attack after seeing these return figures.

It is also very important to note that the market is highly volatile and very unprecedented due to a lack of regulation. We are not unaware of the current scenario of Bitcoin and the way Elon Musk is affecting the market sentiments and indirectly controlling the prices, even the astronomical values that Dogecoin gave was also due to the SNL tweet by Elon Musk. You might still be wondering if you should invest in cryptocurrency or not!If we consider simple lottery tickets where nearly 1 lac people buy the tickets and the probability of winning the competition is 1/100000. Now If I ask you do you put all your savings to buy lottery tickets? The obvious answer is No. The reason it is has no backing and the uncertainty is infinite. We just intend to justify the psychology behind the investment by bringing in the example of a lottery. You should invest your money in crypto according to your risk appetite. The graph below shows the returns generated by Bitcoin and Ethereum.

  1. Digital Gold

Buying physical gold certainly has its downsides. There are issues of identifying its legitimacy and purity, then there are problems of safekeeping and storage. One more issue is that we are in the midst of a pandemic. It is not quite ideal to go out to gold dealers or jewellery stores. Digital gold, on the other hand, can be bought online and is stored in insured vaults by the seller on behalf of the customer. All you require is Internet/mobile banking and you can invest in gold digitally anytime, anywhere. You can take physical delivery of the gold at your doorstep. You can invest an amount as low as Re.1. Digital Gold can be used as collateral for online loans. Digital Gold is genuine and the purity is 24K, 99.5% for SafeGold and 999.9 in the case of MMTC PAMP purchases.

Your purchase is stored safely and is also 100% insured. You can exchange digital gold for physical jewellery or gold coins and bullion.Trading volumes of digital gold in India totalled four to five tonnes last year in India and have proved to be a new way of investing in gold. Let us take a glance at the returns that the gold market has generated through a graph.

The magic wand of diversification to minimize risk

Diversification is the process of dispersing money among several investments in order to lessen risk. You may be able to limit your losses and lessen investment return variations by selecting the correct set of investments without losing too much potential gain.

Furthermore, asset allocation is critical since it has a significant impact on whether you will reach your financial objectives. Your investments may not produce a significant enough return to fulfil your goal if you don’t include enough risk in your portfolio. For example, most financial experts believe that if you’re saving for a long-term goal like retirement or college, you’ll need to incorporate at least some stock or stock mutual funds in your portfolio. However, if you take on too much risk in your portfolio, the money you need to achieve your goal may not be available when you need it. For a short-term aim, such as saving for a family’s summer vacation, a portfolio strongly weighted in stocks or stock mutual funds would be improper. You may feel comfortable building your asset allocation model if you know your time horizon and risk tolerance, as well as if you have some investment expertise.

The art of rebalancing

Rebalancing is the process of returning your portfolio to its original asset allocation balance. This is crucial since some of your investments may drift away from your investment objectives over time. Some of your investments will increase at a higher rate than others. Rebalancing your portfolio ensures that one or more asset categories are not overemphasised, and it returns your portfolio to a reasonable level of risk. Let’s say you’ve determined that alternative investments account for 70% of your portfolio. Alternative investments, on the other hand, now account for 90% of your portfolio, thanks to a recent spike in returns. To re-establish your original asset allocation mix, you’ll need to sell some of your stock assets or buy investments from an under-weighted asset category.

Your portfolio can be rebalanced based on the calendar or your investments. Investors should rebalance their portfolios on a regular basis, such as every six or twelve months, according to several financial gurus. The advantage of this strategy is that it uses a calendar to notify you when it’s time to rebalance.

Others advise rebalancing only when an asset class’s relative weight grows or lowers by more than a particular percentage that you’ve determined ahead of time. The benefit of this approach is that your investments will alert you when it’s time to rebalance. Rebalancing, in either instance, works best when done on a somewhat occasional basis.

Never put all your eggs in one basket

Many people are hesitant to invest because they are afraid of losing money. A novice investor’s first question is frequently, “What if I lose everything?” While all investing has some risk, the fear of losing “everything” is unfounded if you choose wisely where to invest your “eggs.” A well-diversified portfolio should have two degrees of diversification: between asset categories and within asset categories. You’ll need to spread out your assets within each asset group, in addition to arranging your investments across stocks, bonds, cash equivalents, and maybe additional asset categories. Naturally, when you add more investments to your portfolio, you’ll incur higher fees and expenses, lowering your investment returns. As a result, while considering how to diversify your portfolio, you’ll need to factor in these fees.The idea is to find investments in parts of each asset class that may perform differently depending on market conditions. So Happy Investing!

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This article has been co-authored by Sayan Mitra and Ayush Dugar, who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

Robinhood IPO: A speculative story of the trailblazing brokerage app

by Sandeep Kumar

The humble beginnings of a disruptive zero-commission app 

Robinhood is the first zero-commission online trading platform in the brokerage industry. After attending Stanford, Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev formed Robinhood—originally known as Spacetime Industries—in 2013. Their idea was to build a financial services network that democratized financial services for all, in the spirit of the post-financial crisis Occupy Wall Street Movement. But looking after the progress that financial infrastructure has made a unique stock trading app was born, one that capitalized on the emerging mobile ecosystem to draw a new generation of digital natives.

Robinhood as we know today, is a FINRA-regulated broker-dealer that is also a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. It is also registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The business achieved a first-mover advantage known for providing commission-free stock and ETF trades through a mobile app that was launched in March 2015. The company has confidentially filed for its IPO.

Snapshot

Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA

Founded: 2013

Notable Investors: Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and New Enterprise Associates.

Capital Raised: $5.58 Bn

Offer Price: $60.00 (April 2021)

Exchange: NASDAQ

Ticker Symbol: ROBN or HOOD

A customer-centric technology building the growth story

The platform gained 13 Mn users since its inception in 2013. In the first two months of 2021, it added another 6 Mn users. The marketing slogan for Robinhood is “democratize finance.” Although this is largely marketing hyperbole, it has resonated with consumers, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, boredom, and government stimulus reviews have all been blamed by analysts for attracting a large number of new users to the app in the last year. The number of weekly downloads from US app stores increased dramatically in the first half of 2020, making it the fourth most popular finance app in the nation.

According to the industry news platform Business of Apps, the average account size is about $3,500, compared to $100,000 for E-Trade and $240,000 for Schwab. Despite the common myth about naive traders buying stocks on the spur of the moment, Robinhood’s army of new investors has done very well, at least in the aggregate. Ivo Welch, a finance professor at UCLA, recently published a paper that looked at the behavior of thousands of Robinhood traders during the bear market in March 2020 and over the previous three years. He discovered that traders on Robinhood appeared to make rational decisions.

The influx of new customers at Robinhood has sparked a lot of buzz on Wall Street. According to reports, the company was estimated at $12 Bn in September 2020, increasing to about $20 Bn by the end of the year, and then doubling to $40 Bn in February 2021 as the market sentiments applauded on the news of an upcoming IPO.

Robinhood’s Offerings

 

Not your regular subscription-based Revenue Model

Robinhood’s business model is based on “paying for order flow,” which means they don’t charge users to position trades or make any sort of fee. Payments for order flow are payments that Robinhood charges for executing orders through market-makers, who are high-frequency trading companies that keep a large inventory of shares and function as a kind of middle man between investing apps and the actual market. These companies pay public-facing broker platforms for the ability to exchange. Robinhood also offers a $5 per month premium option called Robinhood Gold, which allows users access to a $1,000 trading margin. The company hasn’t disclosed if the feature is profitable.

Rapid growth at the price of increasing pain

Day trading is a very difficult way to make money in investing, according to reams of analysis. It’s no coincidence that Robinhood’s users are enticed to trade regularly and potentially take on more risk than they can handle, which can lead to catastrophic outcomes. Since it generates some of its revenue by selling order flow, it’s in Robinhood’s best interests to increase trading volume. This obscure business practice entails a trading website, such as Robinhood, auctioning off its clients’ market orders to high-frequency traders, who then pay to fill them. The practice is technically legal, but the Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly looking into it. The ongoing GameStop drama exemplifies Munger’s accusation. Individual investors have poured money into thinly traded meme stocks, pushing some to absurdly high valuations based on nothing more than speculation. While Robinhood is far from the only forum used to trade speculatively, it has become the face of the trend.

Competitive pressure and stringent regulations dwindling the trust of clients

Despite having a broad and active client base, one of Robinhood’s biggest challenges would be persuading people to trust it with a greater portion of their investment portfolio. It currently has an average total per client balance of about $1,500, compared to $135,000 for competitors such as Charles Schwab. This confidence is difficult to earn, and the company hasn’t helped matters by positioning its app at the lower end of the market while still offering the same complicated products that more knowledgeable investors would use.

Robinhood recently experienced a series of significant outages due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in many investor lawsuits. Last year, Robinhood was also the subject of a civil fraud investigation for failing to report its payment for order flow practice. In December 2020, Robinhood agreed to settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission, paying a $65 Mn fine. Without addressing these problems, Robinhood would be unable to compete with the major players and gain market share among professional clients. Robinhood was fined $1.25 Mn by FINRA for failing to guide transactions so that its customers got the best rates.

Without addressing these problems, Robinhood would be unable to compete with the major players and gain market share among professional clients. Robinhood, on the other hand, remains a strong favorite among millennial investors.

Market sentiments driving the valuations upwards

Robinhood has raised over $5.6 Bn in funding since 2013, enabling it to continue to grow at a rapid rate. Although the pandemic wreaked havoc on many businesses, Robinhood and other investment platforms saw a surge in demand as institutional investors flocked to the stock market in the hopes of a recovery. It’s no surprise, then, that Robinhood plans to take advantage of the stock market’s euphoria by launching an IPO in the second quarter of 2021. Investors will have to wait to see how much the company is worth, but it will almost definitely be more than the $11.7 Bn it raised in the most recent funding round in September 2020 – which raised $460 Mn. According to recent estimates, the company may be worth $40 Bn.

Analyzing the Competitive Landscape

Despite the fact that many industry mergers have reduced the number of competitors, the table below compares Robinhood to a few other US investment platforms using April 2021 results.

Fundamentally, the current valuation for Robinhood would approximately be equal to 12x-17x NTM, keeping a holistic view of positives together, when we establish listed and successful comparables like Charles Schwab and eToro. Although the current market valuation as per some experts is $40 Bn, in the longer run we believe, that the markets will correct itself and the valuation is likely to take a slump as it is overvalued due to the short-term positive macro factors that are pushing the key business drivers. The intrinsic valuation shall range between $8 Bn – $12 Bn as per prudent estimates.

eToro, another trading and investment app focused on inexperienced traders, is one of Robinhood’s main competitors. eToro has 20 Mn users, which is 53.8% more than Robinhood, according to a press release from March 2021. eToro is also planning an initial public offering in 2021.

Robinhood is evolving into a deceptive crypto bet. In the first quarter of this year, 9.5 Mn users exchanged cryptocurrency on the company’s site. Just a few trading platforms allow users to buy stocks and bitcoin at the same time. Even though Robinhood does not enable users to move their crypto outside of the network, it profits from the cryptocurrency boom. Robinhood collects the spread on the bid-ask, which can be as high as 2%, in addition to a trading fee on crypto transactions.

Is Robinhood profitable?

In 2020, Robinhood made $682 Mn in payment-for-order-flow sales. This is a 514% rise from the previous year. It’s unsurprising that Robinhood’s sales are increasingly increasing, given that the company had over 13 Mn users in early 2020 (probably closer to 20 Mn now), all of whom will be receiving Robinhood commission from market makers. Particularly because Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the stock market.

Given that this represents just 40% – 50% of Robinhood’s overall income, we can estimate the final figure to be about $1.3 Bn. PFOF brought in $330 Mn for Robinhood in Q1’21. Here’s the breakdown:

• Options: $197 Mn (60%)

• Non-S&P 500 Stocks: $126 Mn (38.1%)

• S&P 500 Stocks: $7.1 Mn (2.2%) this represents a 263% YoY and 49.5% QoQ increase in PFOF       revenues.

Is it worth investing in Robinhood?

It’s important to keep Robinhood’s entire story in context. Despite the fears of a billionaire nonagenarian, the GameStop squabble did not lead to Robinhood being what it is today. Although the app has run into some regulatory issues, this isn’t an unusual occurrence for fast-growing startup companies. However, there are enough questions that you may be hesitant to make a purchase. Another important part of the tale is this: Robinhood operates in a highly competitive environment, and its rivals aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. TD Ameritrade was recently acquired by Charles Schwab for $26 Bn. E-Trade was purchased by Morgan Stanley. WeBull, a Chinese-owned investing app, is attempting to replicate Robinhood’s gamified app investing strategy. Stock exchange, last but not least, is a commodified market. End-user prices are as low as they come: essentially zero.

Since then, Robinhood has set itself apart by allowing investors to purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but other players—Coinbase, Paypal, and Fidelity, to name a few—are still major competitors in that sector. Robinhood would have to keep growing in order to justify its exorbitant valuation. However, if the frothy stock market collapses, this could be difficult. With the exception of the historically rare pandemic crash and rebound in February and March 2020, newest investors have only seen bull markets. However, the trend is expected to repeat itself for the next couple of years. This streak of good fortune contradicts the previous history: Socks famously had a bad decade in the 2000s. What happens to investors’ risk appetite during a typical recession? Since Robinhood hasn’t proven capable of coping with such a scenario, cautious investors should limit their exposure to the business.

– – – – – 

This article has been co-authored by Sargam Palod and Sayan Mitrawho is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

A Comparative Guide to Alternative Investment Opportunities for Holistic Wealth Management

by Sandeep Kumar

One of the key drivers of the boom in wealth management has been the rise of alternative investment funds (AIFs), essentially either structured products, cryptocurrencies, thematic funds, real estate funds, private debts, and other such, where HNIs make sophisticated bets on new investing strategies, unlike the conventional world of mutual funds that are used by millions of small investors.

Alternative investments represent approximately $13 Tn (or 12% of the global investable market). By 2025, the industry is expected to grow to $20 Tn – $25 Tn (18-24% of the global investable market). India’s alternative investment industry has grown by nearly 265% since 2017. But the industry is still underdeveloped relative to the rest of the world. As of June 2020, the industry is estimated at $54 Bn in India. The recent growth of India’s alternative investment industry can be highlighted by two recent developments. First, India’s private equity space took the spotlight when Reliance Jio raised $20 Bn via notable blue-chip investors and tech giants, despite the global Covid-19 outbreak.

Source: Grand View Research

A Camaraderie of Risk and Opportunities


An investor who is looking to diversify the investment risk in various asset portfolios. An ideal investor will be the one who is willing to take the underlying risk involved in these unlisted and illiquid securities. Usually, Resident Indians, NRIs, PIOs, OICs, and foreigners are eligible to invest in various types of alternative investments.


Structured Products

These are financial instruments consisting of three components:

  • A Bond
  • Multiple Underlying Assets
  • Derivatives

Depending on the investment objective of the structured product, the interest generated by the bond component is used to buy the derivatives. The underlying asset helps generate the return component. The derivative is of paramount importance in the construction of a structured product. Most of the time it is what determines the level of return. The choice of derivatives will depend on the:

  • desired risk level for the product (capital protection or not),
  • preferred investment horizon,
  • type of return and exposure sought, and market conditions

In the current time, structured products seem to be appealing for customers who try to optimize and diversify the portfolio of savings and achieve the target returns. But with a change of generation, the future holds place for investors moving for fast-paced money-making opportunities rather than the traditional buy and hold investments. The risk with structured products is the lack of liquidity that comes along with low returns and it can be considered more as a buy and hold investment. Along with the lack of liquidity, the potential loss of 100% principal is a huge risk involved.

 

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be used to buy goods and services but uses an online ledger with strong cryptography to secure online transactions. The highlighting characteristics of cryptocurrencies are:

  • Decentralized
  • Volatility
  • Trust-less

The global market of cryptocurrency in 2019 was approximately $792 Mn. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30% and have a market capitalization of around $5100 Mn by 2026.

One of the most notable acceptors of cryptocurrency as a viable medium of payment is Apple Inc. PayPal, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola are amongst the other giants accepting cryptocurrencies.

It is also one of the most lucrative investment options currently present. Its value appreciation is supremely dynamic and can prove to be an excellent avenue for capital expansion.

When it comes to cryptocurrency, the investor sentiments are at all-time high currently. The biggest risk involved in cryptocurrency is the threat of cybersecurity including malicious activity. Loss or destruction of the private key will lead to a 100% loss of principal.

Overall, it is wise to place your bet on crypto in the coming era, keeping in mind that there might be periods of underperformance from time to time.

Thematic Funds

Thematic Funds are equity mutual funds that invest in stocks tied to a theme. Currently, SBI Magnum COMMA Fund and Aditya Birla Sun Life MNC Fund are the most popular thematic funds in India. The idea is to concentrate on making a portfolio with one core element of the economy. Exposure in different sectors helps to partially diversify the risk. It is less risky than sector-focused funds.

Thematic Funds are equity mutual funds that invest in stocks tied to a theme. Currently, SBI Magnum COMMA Fund and Aditya Birla Sun Life MNC Fund are the most popular thematic funds in India. The idea is to concentrate on making a portfolio with one core element of the economy. Exposure in different sectors helps to partially diversify the risk. It is less risky than sector-focused funds.

The practical application of thematic funds can be seen as wealth managers create different portfolios as per the theme that the investor wants to focus on. For example, outdated industries use more suitable examples like fintech, supply chain, or SaaS. 

However, if you are a very conservative investor, you may not consider investing as these funds come with higher levels of concentration risk. You must have an investment horizon of at least 5 years to mitigate the associated risks.

A mid to long-term investment trend should underlie the investment rationale behind thematic funds. Let us understand how thematic funds are a good investment with an example. Due to Covid-19, we saw a boom in the healthcare, pharmaceuticals sector. Considering the Covid-19 is going to stay a bit longer than expected, there will be an increasing demand for healthcare.

Thematic funds should concentrate more on investing in the specific companies which stand to benefit from this boom- like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, medical instruments manufacturers, etc. Similarly, hybrid and electric vehicles might be the road runners for tomorrow. So accordingly, thematic funds would look forward to investing in those specific sets of companies. Ideally, thematic funds should constitute 5- 10% of your portfolio if you are an aggressive investor willing to take higher levels of risk.

 

Real Estate Funds

A real estate fund is a sector fund that invests in securities of companies that invest in real estate projects. Investors get broad exposure to real estate for a low investment level. A Real Estate Fund can comprise investments either directly in real estate companies or in Real Estate Investment Trusts.

Some of the characteristics of real estate funds are:

  • Long term investment
  • Returns depend on the growth of the sector
  • Liquidity to investors, which is not the same if invested in physical real estate

With inflation on the rise, the prices of properties will increase which in turn will increase the value of real estate making it a protected investment for the investors willing to invest their money into long-term investment plans for at least 5 years. And the people who are in search of quick returns might not fit as suitable investors for these funds. Overall, they are being seen in a more traditional light, due to new opportunities. Present case on their growth opportunities and are they still relevant post covid.

The two common risks with these funds are the market risk of the real estate sector and the interest rate risk. Retail investors have a large amount of disposable income so investors like them can consider real estate funds for a diversified investment portfolio.

Private Debts

A private debt fund specializes in lending activity and raises money from investors and lends that money to companies. It represents an alternative to bank lending as well as providing investors with exposure to the more bond-like returns occurring from private debt as an asset class.

Private debt funds come in different shapes and sizes. For example, some private debt funds provide capital to sponsor-backed borrowers, others fund real estate development projects, and some invest entirely in the debt of distressed companies. By 2019, the assets invested into private debt reached a record high of $812 Bn and it was expected to exceed $1 Tn by 2020 but for the Covid-19 outbreak which slowed it down.

Private debt in Europe has grown by nearly 380% in the past decade and the Asian market has taken off in recent years. The lower volatility and regular cash income are really attractive to investors. Already one of the fastest-growing alternative asset classes, with total AUM rising 168% from $315 Bn in 2010 to $845 Bn in 2019, this growth is expected to continue with a 73% increase in AUM to $1.46 Tn by 2025. It is thus expected to become the second fastest-growing alternative, next to private equity, by 2025.

 

AIF as per Investor Risk Appetite

The Journey Ahead

The future of the alternative investment industry seems likely to be one of both growth and significant structural change, accompanied by an increasing maturity of the industry’s infrastructure, regulation, and investment relationships. The importance and need of the alternatives industry are likely to become even more evident to the public as individuals begin investing in the sector through retail alternatives, to strengthen the value of personal long-term investment portfolios. Ultimately, demonstrating the value addition that the industry generates and doing so in a transparent fashion will be the key to the industry being accepted by the public and policymakers. The Indian Alternative Investments Market still represents a minuscule share of the global market and is poised for unprecedented growth in the years to come.

– – – – –

This article has been co-authored by Yogesh Lakhotiawho is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

 

 

 

 

Coinbase IPO: $100 Billion listing, will the momentum continue for the crypto giant?

by Sandeep Kumar

Coinbase is a US-based cryptocurrency secure exchange that makes it easy to buy, sell, and store cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. It offers products for both institutional clients and retail clients.The platform provides trading and storage services for 58 cryptocurrencies. Coinbase Prime is a platform dedicated to institutional clients. It also offers a debit Visa which enables clients to spend cryptocurrencies anywhere Visa is accepted.

Coinbase is going for a direct listing on Nasdaq under the ticker ‘COIN’. A direct listing is an alternative to an IPO, and it provides investors and employees the liquidity to their ownership stakes on the listing. This may not be beneficial for the company as no new capital is raised or shares are being issued. However,Coinbase will save millions of dollars in costs usually incurred in IPO.

 Snapshot

  • Founded: 2012
  • Notable Investors: Andreessen Horowitz,Paradigm,Ribbit Capital,Tiger Global, and Union Square Venture
  • HQ: San Francisco CA, United States
  • Total Funding: $847 Mn
  • CEO/ Management experience: Brian Armstrong is the co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer. Brian previously founded UniversityTutor.com. Fred is also co-founder and serves as managing partner at Paradigm (Crypto Fund).

Business Model

Coinbase makes money by charging fees for its brokerage and exchange services. In addition to the brokerage fees, Coinbase also charges variable spreads on purchases and trades. There is also a “Coinbase Fee” in addition to the spread and the cost of depositing money mentioned below in the chart. This fee is dependent on the value of the purchase, payment type (debit/credit), and region you are purchasing from. Customers can upgrade to Coinbase Pro for free after they have sufficient knowledge and experience.For advanced clients, Pro services offer research charts and more complex trading options.Company Highlights

Payment Method

Coinbase Fee

Bank Account

1.49%

Coinbase USD Wallet

1.49%

Debit/Credit Card

3.99%

ACH Transfer

Free

Wire Transfer

$10 ($25 Outgoing)

Crypto Conversion

2.00%

 Fee Structure at Coinbase

Competitive Advantage

Coinbase’s strategy has been to secure virgin markets by focusing on rapid customer volume growth, being the first to implement no fee forthe first $1 Mn of cashouts. This has been a great strategy leading to rapid customer growth.It also developed a pricing model that takes advantage of bitcoin price volatility by monetizing cashouts, which protect bitcoin users against volatility.

Over the years hacking has been one of the major risksleading to bankruptcyto many exchanges. Coinbase boasts an industry-leading security system to protect crypto assets and user data to avoid such ill fate. There has been no reported case of hacking for the company to date.

Market Sentiments

Coinbase is poised to list at a multiple of over 50x revenues.The market is bullish on Coinbase and the future of crypto assets. Crypto Assets have traditionally been highly volatile and have had multiple boom and busts in just one decade. Post the pandemic, the acceptance of crypto-asset has led to prices and trading volume rise exponentially with more acceptance by institutional investors, Coinbase on its part has also planned its listing when the market sentiment is at an all-time high with bitcoin touching a record ATH$60,000 and investors being super bullish on cryptocurrencies. The market is expecting the listing of Coinbase at a very high valuation of around $70Bn – $100 Bn.

Key Risks

  • In the past, there have been many security breaches and loss of crypto assets held by users ex: Mt. Gox. Such a catastrophe could adversely impact Coinbase’s brand and financial condition.
  • Cryptocurrency is highly regulatory and evolving and with many counties banning cryptocurrencies, any adverse regulation can be detrimental to the running of Coinbase.
  • The crypto market is highly innovative, the competition will further intensify in the future as existing and new competitors introduce new products or enhance existing products leading to lower revenues for Coinbase. Exchanges such as Binance, Kraken, Bybit, Bitmex, and Bitflyer have much larger trading volumes than Coinbase and differentiated products such as derivatives and crypto financing.

Financial Highlights

  • Total Revenue (2012-2020): $3.4 Bn
  • Revenue break-up: 96% – Transaction volume-based fee, 4% – Subscription products and services
  • Subscription and Services growing 126% YOY and more stable than the transaction-based fee.

Other Information

Coinbase has two classes of common stock, Class A common stock and Class B common stock. Each share of Class A common stock is entitled to one vote. Each share of Class B common stock is entitled to twenty votes and is convertible at any time into one share of Class A common stock. In the Listing, only the Class A of 114.9 Mn common stock is available.

  • Supports 90 crypto assets
  • Monthly Active Users: 2.8 Mn
  • Lifetime Trading Volume: $456 Bn
  • Total Assets on Platform: $90 Bn
  • Retail Users: 43 Mn, Institutional Investors – 7000

Market Opportunity

The Growth of Crypto Assets has grown at a CAGR of 195% over the last decade,the size of the market has hit $2 Tn in April 2021 and is poised to continue growing at an accelerated rate with increasing institutional and retail participation. Coinbase today has around 12% of the total crypto assets in its users’ wallets and will look to increase its market share.

Market Competitors

The Top 10 Crypto Exchanges have only ~25% Market Share, Overtime, Coinbase, and other big crypto exchanges will be leading market share gains at the expense of smaller players.

Valuation

The Valuation of Coinbase is in line with other fast-growing exchanges such as Robinhood at 56x revenue multiples. Being the first crypto exchange to be listed, there are no direct competitors to compare Coinbase with.Hence, we are using Robinhood which is a private startup and fast-growing with innovative products and services and has recently started providing a crypto exchange on its platform.

 

Being listed directly, there is a possibility of scarcity premium due to limited supply of Coinbase shares leading to higher valuations.

Valuation ($Bn)

Net Revenue ($Bn)

EV/Revenue

Robinhood 2020

40.0

0.7

58.8x

Robinhood 2021

80.0

1.4

57.1x

Coinbase 2020

68.0

1.2

56.7x

Coinbase 2021

100.0

1.2

77.0x

In the S-1 filing, Coinbase reported that the average share trading price was $343.58 in the private market in the Q1 of 2021 which is valued at $68 Bn. However, in the secondaries, the shares of Coinbase were trading at a valuation as high as $100 Bn, this would bring the multiple to around 77x multiples. Assuming an estimated 266.2 Mn outstanding shares, the shares are expected to trade in the range of $360 – $370. For now, 114.9 Mn shares have been registered to trade on the exchange.

Investing in Coinbase! Should you be cautious?

With investor sentiments at an all-time high, Investors looking for a quick buck can buy the shares during the direct listing and continue holding Coinbase as long as the crypto momentum continues. Long-term Investors however should understand that Coinbase fortunes are directly linked to the value of crypto assets. Expect the stock to be volatile and with some periods of under performance when crypto assets are in the bust phase. We recommend the investors to be optimistic about the long-term prospects of Coinbase but understand that there would be periods of under performance from time to time.

This article has been co-authored by Nihal Yerramsetti and Ayush Dugar, who are in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

SPAC – Building a Bubble of Uncertainty

by Sandeep Kumar

SPAC popularity has quadrupled in the past year or two and is bringing a new wave in the investment sector, especially the celebrity engagement in the world SPAC worked as the icing on the cake. This uncertain bubble is growing huge, as the bubble of uncertainty.

Overview

SPAC named as Special Purpose Acquisition Companies was developed to avoid the old lengthy and costly way of moving with a traditional IPO process. But now it is getting misused to bring up incompetent companies to go public which does not have the necessary requirements to become public under any circumstances. The goal is to bring in capital and deposit into an interest-bearing trust account, the SPAC aims to buy an established privately owned corporation through a “business combination.” After a SPAC raises funds, it usually has two years to make an investment, with the possibility of an extension if enough SPAC stockholders vote to do so. If the SPAC is unable to reach an agreement within that time frame, it is required to refund the money to its investors, and the SPAC’s sponsor forfeits any initial investment. The investors have no clue about the company getting acquired.

Now Let us take a moment back and think, will you ever give a blank check to someone without knowing where is it getting spent. How many of us will do that? hopefully none. This is exactly what is done in SPAC and that is why it is called blank check companies. The investors pay without knowing and analysing as there is almost no way to perform a distinctive calculation to understand about the acquisition as there is no prior announcement of acquisition.

Risk from an Investor’s Perspective

Under securities law, only past financial statements can be disclosed in standard IPOs. SPACs, on the other hand, will use forward-looking forecasts to market the business mix. For fast-growing but not yet profitable businesses, being able to present forecasts will help them tell their story to investors. If you are an investor, then you know what happens when a bubble bursts.

Let us take a basic example and understand, if you could buy SPAC shares for $10 and then get approximately $10 back, what you’ve lost is the chance to put the money to better use elsewhere. If you as an investor, on the other hand, do not participate in the SPAC IPO. Instead, if you purchase stock on the open market, let’s take SPAC shares have been trading 50 percent to 75 percent above their IPO prices in recent months, even before they name an acquisition target. You won’t get your $15 back in liquidation if you buy a SPAC for $15 per share and it never makes a deal. You’ll get $10, which is a 33% loss. Akazoo, an AI music streaming company that was expected to merge with Modern Media Acquisition Corp in 2019, may be the most unfortunate of the failed SPACs. Instead, it was revealed that Akazoo’s previous management had falsified the books and records to a significant degree, effectively nullifying their claimed 5.5 million subscribers.

This is not new in case of SPACs. Despite this let us go through the celebrity industry involvement in SPAC making it even more popular sports figures Alex Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neal, former house speaker Paul Ryan and the list is goes on. The count moves to 474 SPACs raising $156 Bn. After investing your hard earned wealth what you get is Ambiguous valuations, questionable disclosures and a misalignment of interests. SPAC is making the people minting SPACs rich and giving a hope to the investors to get rich later without a basis but a promise of gamble. It is often seen that the SPAC sponsor tends to wash off their hands by selling off their part of shares, as an investor what do you think is the confidence level that is getting reflected where the SPAC Sponsor sells off his part leaving other is dismay. The actual purpose of SPAC is getting diluted and is becoming a tool to just skipping the IPO process and going public with litigation risk is present as recent cases have demonstrated.

See, for example, Bogart v Israel Aerospace Indus., Ltd. (standing of SPAC sponsor to bring a claim for breach of duty to act in good faith); Rufford v. Transtech Serv. Partners, Inc. (challenge to fees being paid to SPAC sponsor); Welch v. Meaux (alleged securities fraud in connection with SPAC business combination); and Olivera v. Quartet Merger.Corp. (SPAC shareholder suing SPAC for failure to honour his redemption right). CEC Entertainment (owner of Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza) and Leo Holdings declined to combine in 2019. CEC executives gave no specific reason for the termination, but they did lose out on a $1.4 billion contract. Since then, the company has applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Performance of SPACs : The Numbers Game

Now let’s bring in numbers which is the ultimate factor for investors from August 2020, the 56 SPACs studied outperformed the S&P 500 by an average of 11 percentage points in the first three months following an acquisition, but lagged the broader market in the 12 months following the transaction. According to a separate study, SPACs under consideration that went public since 2015 have lost an average of 18.5 percent, with median returns of -36.1% compared to a 37.2 percent increase for typical IPOs. Table below consists of the recent SPAC (with definitive agreement) performance.

Name

Commons Price

% Change wrt 08/03/2021

Unit Price

Warrant Price

Colonnade Acquisition Corp.

$10.47

-12.97%

$13.45

$2.54

Alussa Energy Acquisition Corp

$10.49

-4.03%

$12.09

$2.22

Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp.

$10.30

-4.01%

$10.95

$1.70

FTAC Olympus Acquisition

$10.47

-3.24%

$11.17

$2.27

10X Capital Venture Acquisition Corp

$10.33

-2.55%

$11.23

$1.57

Thunder Bridge Acquisition II

$10.36

-2.36%

$11.98

$1.99

NavSight Holdings, Inc.

$10.43

-2.16%

$11.05

$1.64

Vesper Healthcare Acquisition Corp.

$10.25

-2.01%

$10.80

$2.15

NextGen Acquisition Corporation

$10.31

-1.62%

$11.03

$2.12

Starboard Value Acquisition Corp.

$10.05

-1.57%

$10.26

$1.71

TPG Pace Tech Opportunities Corp.

$10.26

-1.25%

$10.71

$1.36

Fusion Acquisition

$10.37

-1.24%

$11.30

$1.56

Altimar Acquisition Corp

$9.95

-1.09%

$10.42

$1.57

Fortress Value Acquisition Corp. II

$10.07

-0.98%

$10.38

$1.40

Forum Merger III Corporation

$10.20

-0.97%

$10.88

$2.05

 

It is not surprising as a bubble when it grows beyond a limit it will burst. It might sound like a normal fact when I say Dozens of SPACs are trading below $10 at which the shares were sold assuming they are yet to announce their deals, but surprisingly many SPACs started trading at large premium to their cash holding, like Churchill Capital Corp.IV traded at $64 even before its deal with Lucid Motors Inc, which is a highly unlikely behaviour but it shares has fallen by 60% since then.  To continue the discussion let us look into the former financial disappointments by SPACs, one of the prominent example that comes to the mind is the case of Nikola Corp. so called rival of Tesla, which was targeted by Hindenburg announced that it would produce fewer than 20% of the electric trucks it has planned.

Based on our analysis all the forecasts made was turned into scraps, a complete financial disappointment. If that was not enough let’s see the case of Quantumscape Corp. and Hyliion Holdings Corp., former SPACs, have already lost 2/3rd of their value after attaining peak last year. The performance of SPAC post-merger is often disappointing.

Investors Beware

Let us see the upcoming facts in the world of SPAC, there were nearly 250 special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACS, that raised more than $83 billion in 2020, with an average size of $334 million. So far this year, 75 people have been counting. Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart is reportedly exploring going public in the U.S. through a merger with a SPAC as it aims to fasten the listing process, also E-commerce players like Grofers also are exploring ways to go public through SPAC. Now see the example and look from a investors prespective, it has a revenue of around 34 million USD, showing a increase of 54% in income but also has a 74.4% year on year increase in loss. Its revenue is no way even near to 100 million but is going public with presenting a forecast of growth in future. Would you Invest in it?.

It is an obvious fact that it can no way follow the traditional IPO method so coming in through the SPAC. Don’t you think SPAC is increasingly becoming a loophole rather than an effective tool of reducing the tedious process of traditional IPO. It should be conclusive of the fact that investors shall be beware and should examine and analyse whenever it comes to the point of investing in a SPAC before thinking it to be a highly profitable investment in near future, otherwise you may end up losing money. Fate of a bubble on growing beyond the threshold is inevitable.

 

This article has been co-authored by Sayan Mitra, who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

Wall Street’s dream week, crazy week for the IPO market

by tradmin

“U.S. IPOs are having a busy week as 21 companies are expected to price their offerings raising more than $10 billion combined in the coming weeks.”

23 new IPOs were listed at NYSE and Nasdaq combined, making it one of busiest week in Wall street in last few years. Wall street is for visionaries, people who can look forward and measure up the market moves. It’s not for people Reminiscing the past and wallowing in its sorrow. Corona pandemic was past and the recovering economy, potential successful vaccine and rising sentiments among investors are already showing signs. Wall street has always been front runner and rightly so. The last week has seen crazy amount of IPO activity in the market and many more billion-dollar companies are soon to follow.

Snowflake’s share soared on the first day of trading with its valuation doubled from $33 Bn to over $70bn, making its initial public offering the largest ever for a software firm. Snowflake is a cloud computing company, that went public on NYSE on 16th Sep 2020 and raised $3.36 Bn. The overenthusiasm among the investors pushed the first day trading price to $245 — more than double its IPO price — in New York trading. Multiple VC and early stage investors have been able to mint billions of dollars from the IPO. The share got additional traction after the investment interest from Ventures and Berkshire Hathaway.

JFrog a DevOps software development company also went public on 16th Sep 2020 with IPO priced at $44 raising $509 Mn at the company valuation of just about $4 Bn. By end of the day JFrog’s stock soared 47.3%, closing at 64.79. JFrog was reportedly valued at $1.5 billion last year and IPO provided a huge valuation boost to the company. The soaring valuation of the company shows how much the investors are willing to pay for high growing SaaS company.

Unity Software went public with a blockbuster IPO this Friday, with its price jumping 44% by the end of the day. The company raised proceeds of around $1.3 Bn by selling 25 million shares at $52. Its stock raised as high as $76 in early day trading lifting company’s valuation to around $20 Bn. Unity is world famous gaming development studio that is known for hits such as “PokemonGo”, “Call of Duty:mobile” etc. Unity expected its IPO price to be round $34 – $42, but the enthusiasm about the stock among the public helped company go with IPO at $52. Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake were the biggest investors in Unity before the IPO, with Sequoia owning more than 24 per cent. Unity reported loss of $54 Mn this year, even though its revenue is on the rise, reporting $351 Mn earnings last year, 39% up from previous year. Gaming is the fastest growing segment in media category with 2.5 billion gamers worldwide and $140 Bn in revenue which is also consistently rising exponentially.

Sumo Logic: Sumo logic was the third venture backed software company listed this week, on 17th Sep 2020, on the exchange with the price above its anticipated range. The company raised $326 Mn with shares priced at $22, with the day closing at 26.8 a 22% jump in the closing price. Sumo logic is pioneer in continuous Intelligence with applications across digital transformation, cloud computing and analytics. Sumo like many others going public this week has shown solid revenue growth but also equitably growing losses. But the multiple times oversubscription of the company shares and the rising stock price shows the confidence investors have on the company and its growth potential.

Investors are bullish on the market and wall street is riding on the positive wave. Past few weeks have seen strong IPO activity after a long dull period, with 23 new IPO listed on NYSE and Nasdaq just this week. List of IPO listed during this week:

Billions of dollars have changed hands with number of VCs and early stage investors making big exits. Just a month ago when the companies were worried sick about corona and its potential impact on the investments and their portfolio, last few weeks have seen a complete shift in scenario. Sequoia a leading VC was largest owner of Unity, had 8.4% stake in Snowflake and some ownership in Sumo Logic had around $9 Bn worth in these three companies, earning health profits with exits. Many other investors have seen a profitable run and the IPO fever is not expected to end any time soon.

Whatever be the reason, be it the recovering economy from the pandemic, be it the strengthening investor sentiment or be it the escape from the future political uncertainty from elections IPO market is up and running. U.S. IPOs are having a busy week as 21 companies are expected to price their offerings raising more than $10 billion combined in the coming weeks. 

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