DiDi Chuxing IPO: The race to dominate the global ride-hailing pool besides stiff competition

by Sandeep Kumar | June 1, 2021

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DiDi Chuxing is a Chinese ride-hailing company headquartered in Beijing that was founded in 2012 by Cheng Wei. DiDi is China’s largest ride-hailing provider, with nearly 600 Mn riders and tens of millions of drivers. Didi Chuxing has the advantage of being a domestic player who is familiar with China and its clients. In China, the company’s app allows users to request trips from automobiles and taxis, as well as chauffeur services, minibusses, and ride-sharing services. If the IPO is successful, the company’s valuation could range between $70 Bn and $100 Bn. DiDi Chuxing, which is backed by SoftBank, plans to raise $1.5 Bn in debt financing through a revolving loan facility prior to its IPO. At a time when the Chinese government is cracking down on technology companies, Uber’s Chinese counterpart DiDi Chuxing may have filed for an IPO under the radar. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been chosen to lead the company’s initial public offering (IPO).

Snapshot

  • Headquarters: Beijing, China
  • Founded: 2012
  • Notable Investors: SoftBank, Alibaba Capital Partners, and Ant Group.
  • Capital Raised: $24.9 Bn
  • Latest Valuation: $62 Bn
  • Exchange: NYSE
  • Ticker Symbol: DIDI
  • Founder: Cheng Wei

Cementing the position with its industry-leading services

DiDi-Chuxing allocates calls from customers within 3 kilometers, though this boundary is being widened now. However, DiDi-Chuxing recently added a destination basic allocation system in which DiDi drivers can announce a destination and escaping location. The DiDi-Chuxing allocating systems have two modes: selection mode, which began in July 2018, allows the DiDi driver to choose the destination, including long-distance; and allocation mode, which allocates calls to DiDi drivers nearby.

DiDi-Chuxing usually assigns DiDi-X to veterans and DiDi-pool to new drivers. Customers of DiDi use payment methods such as Wechat-Pay, AliPay, DiDi-Pay, and others. When paying for any DiDi-Chuxing usage, DiDi customers can change their payment methods. When a customer sends a DiDi-Chuxing car-sharing fee, the fee is transferred from the customer to DiDi. If the customer did not pay, he must pay the fee before using DiDi-Chuxing again. In the case of long-distance driving in Beijing, the DiDi system raises the fee by up to 30% to compensate the DiDi driver for financial loss.

In the case of DiDi-Premier, there are discrepancies between the announced payment amount in advance and the actual payment amount after driving. These two amounts, however, differed by only a few cents. Even though the customer’s money is directly allocated to the driver’s bank account, the money may be paid a little late after driving. Actual payment takes place two days after the customer’s payment, or one-time weekly payment is made.

Currently, DiDi-Premier is charged a distance fee, a low-speed fee, and a long-distance fee. DiDi-Luxury also receives a long-distance basic fee and a fast call allocation fee. Because of weak government regulations and medium-level public transportation conditions, DiDi-Chuxing has a 3 km base call allocation system, with a trend toward increasing the allocation distance from more than 3 km up to 10 km in the case of DiDi-Luxury.

Ride-Hailing App’s concentrated Revenue Model

The majority of the company’s revenue comes from its private ride-hailing app. DiDi-X drivers received 80% of the revenue paid to DiDi-Chuxing by the customer. DiDi drivers can drive the DiDi car for 12 hours per day, which is calculated based on the DiDi operating time.

DiDi-Premier drivers earn 74% of the revenue. DiDi-Premier fees are 20% higher than DiDi-X fees, and DiDi-Premier drivers earn 20% more than DiDi-X drivers. DiDi-Luxury is five times more expensive than DiDi-X and three times more expensive than DiDi-Premier. DiDi-Chuxing pays DiDi-owned luxury car drivers 10,000 yuan per month in one-time and weekly payments. The fee for DiDi-Pool is 10% less than the fee for DiDi-X. If customers pay with Alipay, Alipay provides a small incentive to the drivers as part of an Alipay promotion in DiDi-Chuxing. If a DiDi driver cancels the allocation more than four times, the driver must pay DiDi-Chuxing a fee.

What is important is that the revenue of DiDi drivers is more than twice the minimum salary of university-graduated manpower under the weakness of China’s taxi industry and the automotive industry with the support of the Chinese government with limited regulatory power. The Chinese government regards DiDi-Chuxing as a kind of revenue-increasing engine for the people.

DiDi’s Business Timeline

 

A dominant strategic player in the Chinese Market with uncertain longevity

DiDi Chuxing has risen to the top of the online car-hailing market after merging with and acquiring Uber China. After driving Uber out of China in 2016, DiDi Chuxing quickly dominated the country’s massive ride-sharing market – but its position is far from secure, as more powerful rivals emerge to challenge its dominance. According to PwC, China’s shared travel market will reach $564 Bn by 2030, with a 32% annual growth rate. Many businesses have been drawn in by the massive shared travel dividend. China’s online car-hailing market exhibits a high level of market competition. Many players are still active, in addition to the dominant DiDi Chuxing. There is still room for a taxi-hailing market worth $100 Bn. The national average ride-hailing success rate is around 75%, and 25% of online ride-hailing demand remains unmet. This provides a lot of incentive for new entrants like Gaode Taxi, Meituan Taxi, Ruqi Travel, and other public online ride-hailing platforms.

DiDi Chuxing has approximately 554.7 Million orders, while the order volume of more than ten travel platforms such as T3 Travel, Cao Cao Travel, Wanshun Car-hailing, Xiangdao Travel, and Meituan Travel is less than 90 Mn, according to the calculation of the internal parameters of online car-hailing. As can be seen, DiDi Chuxing’s order volume far outnumbers that of other ride-hailing platforms. DiDi Chuxing, on the other hand, cannot sit back and relax. The company’s continued loss of market share has also planted a slew of hidden dangers for it. DiDi Chuxing’s market share accounted for 95% of the scale of online ride-hailing around 2016. Later, due to security incidents, DiDi Chuxing’s ride-hailing business was forced to go offline in the second half of 2018, and its market share also fell to 90%; according to calculations, DiDi Chuxing’s market share is only about 85% today.

How does DiDi fair over different regions and their market leaders?

 Source: PitchBook 

 Chinese Ride-Sharing Giant on the way to profitability 

DiDi Chuxing is dubbed “China’s Uber,” yet it really outperforms Uber and other competitors in the Chinese market. DiDi Chuxing, or DiDi, is a Chinese ride-hailing startup that has amassed over 550 Mn users and 31 Mn drivers since its launch nine years ago. DiDi claims to have a 99% market share in China’s taxi-hailing business and an 87% market share in private auto hailing, according to its own data. In comparison to Uber China’s 45 cities, it has a presence in over 400 cities across the country.

The company’s primary ride-hailing business is lucrative, and it has rebounded since the coronavirus outbreak in China, its home market. The corporation has 14 international markets, including Australia, Japan, Latin America, and Mexico, in addition to China. The business is more than just automobiles and cabs. DiDi also includes bus services and a chauffeur booking option, which might be beneficial if you’ve had too much to drink and need a designated driver to take both the car and the driver home.

DiDi’s financial performance is difficult to quantify because it is a privately held firm. In 2018, Chinese news outlets claimed losses of $1.6 Bn. While its primary ride-hailing company charged an average of 19% in commissions, overall expenses, which included tax payments and driver bonuses, were 21%, implying a 2% loss each journey. This pattern may be traced all the way back to the beginning.

Concerns Regarding the company

  • Massive expansion and competitive pressure: DiDi’s rapid expansion in China was fuelled by its fierce competition with Uber and lax government rules regarding ride-hailing services. DiDi created an army of drivers, which it bolstered with massive driver subsidies, allowing it to outrun Uber’s operations.
  • Regulation which limits driver’s work regions: China, unlike the United States, has rules that limit where residents can work. DiDi drivers from rural areas, in particular, are not allowed to work in larger cities unless they live there. Residency licenses come in a variety of levels, and cities vary in how aggressively they enforce them. However, many are tightening their belts. Many large cities are experiencing a driver shortage as a result of this, as many drivers do not want to risk paying fines for working where they do not live. It has also compelled DiDi to delete a large number of its drivers from its own app.
  • DiDi’s predicament is hardly exceptional: Regardless of size, all ride-sharing companies must choose between responsible expansion and safety. The murders that were reported exposed significant flaws in the DiDi app and its protocols. One major flaw was the company’s decision to outsource its passenger assistance system, which was chastised for failing to act on a previous complaint against one of the alleged murderers. Keeping an in-house customer support team would definitely strengthen the entire safety system, but it is a step that would have a negative influence on the company’s bottom line, which is already far from profitable.

Valuation analysis of the company

 Source: PitchBook 

Market sentiments surrounding the IPO

DiDi Chuxing is planning an initial public offering, with a capitalization of $60 Bn. Although no official date has been set, the company anticipates going public in the first half of 2021. When it comes to ride-hailing, you may only be familiar with Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. DiDi, on the other hand, is one of the most well-known ride-hailing companies in the world. Even yet, the recent failures of ride-hailing IPOs are worth noting. Following their IPOs, both Uber and Lyft saw their stock prices plummet, trading as low as 70% below their IPO prices. DiDi, on the other hand, may have something the other businesses don’t.

DiDi has a 17.5% ownership in Uber, and DiDi has invested $1 Bn in Uber, so DiDi is essentially the Chinese Uber. But there’s a lot more to it. DiDi joined Kuaidi in 2015 to build a smartphone-based transportation services behemoth. Taxis, privately owned cars, carpooling, and buses would be summoned by users. This is in stark contrast to the Uber and Lyft models, which rely solely on scooters.

According to the sources, DiDi Chuxing chose New York because of a more predictable listing pace, the existence of comparable peers such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., and a larger capital pool. The decision comes as the US Securities and Exchange Commission pushes forward with a plan to delist international companies from US stock exchanges if they fail to meet US auditing criteria.

But even if DiDi was restricted to China alone, there would still be a case for the company. It serves a nation of 2 Billion people and has plenty of institutional backing. Tech investment giant and Uber-backer SoftBank Group Corp backs DiDi. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings ADR also back the company. Before its IPO, DiDi still expects to have another funding round to boost the valuation. Some of its shares are still trading below its 2017 peak valuation of $56 Bn.

Extensive product expansion and the road ahead

DiDi Chuxing, a Chinese app-based ride-hailing business, has unveiled a new three-year strategy for steady and sustainable growth. DiDi’s three-year plan, dubbed “0188,” moves away from its “all-in-safety” approach and toward longer-term safety capacity building and user value creation. The number 0 represents safety as a top concern, while the other three numbers represent DiDi’s strategy aims.

As of the beginning of 2020, DiDi has completed over 1 Bn international journeys. DiDi prioritizes its platform for integrated four-wheeler (ride-hailing, taxi, designated driving, and hitch) and two-wheeler (bike and e-bike) and public transportation solutions, as well as it’s subsidiary Xiaoju Automobile Solutions, autonomous driving, fintech services, and smart transportation businesses.

A customer-centric car leasing business has been unveiled by DiDi and its long-time partner BAIC, as well as a consortium of automotive industry enterprises and Chinese state-owned institutions. “In the next three years, the companies hope to have a fleet of 100,000 cars available for lease,” according to the agreement.

Should you invest?

The majority of initial public offerings (IPOs) are volatile at first. You have a large influx of early investors who buy into the hoopla and then fade away. As a result, many IPOs experience a drop in the period following the IPO. We’ve already listed Uber and Lyft, but we can think of a few more. JFrog Ltd. (NASDAQ: FROG) has dropped 33% since its first public offering in October. Snowflake Inc. (NYSE: SNOW), the largest software IPO in history, dropped 40% after rising 61% in the months afterward. This is how most initial public offerings (IPOs) go, which is why we constantly advise against investing in them immediately. You might want to get in as quickly as possible in some circumstances. But, in most cases, it’s better to wait for the euphoria to settle down and see whether the stock can return to a stable state i.e. the actual value. You should also be wary of the company’s particular industry.

It’s difficult to be positive about a ride-hailing service, using Uber and Lyft as examples. But, as we already stated, DiDi’s case may be different. As both Uber and Lyft have been embroiled in a price war across the United States, which has caused their stock prices to plummet.

DiDi has the advantage of having China almost entirely to themselves, as well as having infiltrated overseas markets. A user base seven times that of what many consider the industry’s biggest brand (Uber) might have a significant impact on DiDi’s stock performance following its IPO. As a result, the stock is more likely to be a buy than Uber or Lyft. However, because Uber is a shareholder, DiDi’s success might put money in Uber’s pocket, giving Uber an even bigger advantage in its struggle with Lyft. If you want to purchase Didi stock, it is advisable to get it at the right price

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

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Understanding how the pandemic has fueled the growth of the Secondaries Market

by Sandeep Kumar

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Secondaries Market and its Performance during Pandemic

The buy-and-sell of pre-existing investor commitments to private equity and other alternative investment funds is referred to as the private-equity secondary market. Transferring interests in private equity and hedge funds can be more complicated and time-consuming due to the lack of established trading venues for these interests. Private equity has traditionally been an illiquid sector, with institutional investors acquiring buyout funds and waiting more than ten years to enjoy the rewards. Private Equity was designed for investors who preferred to buy and hold assets rather than sell them for a quick profit.

Market downturns have historically had a short-term impact on secondary markets. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an evolution in the financial world and a similar change has been witnessed in the private equity secondary market. Through this article we will understand how the secondaries performance has fuelled post the onset of pandemic.

Historical Returns in the Midst of Pandemic

Market downturns have historically had a short-term impact on secondary markets, reducing transaction volumes, delaying realisations and distributions, and placing downward pressure on price. Secondary markets have usually returned from market downturns with significant activity, and have presented excellent possibilities for investors with available investment money once volatility has subsided and stability has been restored.

During the pandemic, due to great degree of uncertainties and subsequent volatility, investors in the secondary market grabbed the opportunity by buying the dip and securing their positions by purchasing at greater discounts. According to Greenhill’s Report, greater interest has been seen particularly in COVID-proof” sectors, newer vintage funds and more concentrated exposures, which are easier to diligence and underwrite. The secondary market experienced large volume growth in the second half of 2020 and into 2021. In 2021, we can expect secondary transaction volume to hit new highs. Secondaries may find more enticing pricing as a result of the market’s uncertainty, resulting in increased prospects and profitability.

Why the secondaries market are attractive?

· Recent Vintages (post-2015): Recent vintages with unfunded capital have become more attractive to investors in the present circumstances. Investors get insight into the portfolio and platform investments, as well as assurance that the increased cash available may be used offensively as well as defensively. High-quality GPs with ample money who are seen as capable of handling market disruption are especially appealing.

· GP-led Transactions: The number of tail-end funds and older assets appears to have risen with the possibility that the COVID-19 epidemic would further delay exits. High-quality general partners have continued to use the secondary market to maintain high-performing firms while also providing current limited partners with a liquidity alternative. With a number of secondary deals started this summer, the GP-driven market has led the resurgence in secondary transactions.

· Single Asset Transfers: As the frequency of single asset transactions in high-quality firms increases, general partners keep seeking for methods to keep their best companies. Diversifying among funds is one method secondary investors may reduce concentration risk. Single asset transactions are especially desirable in the COVID-19 environment since it is easier to assess the impact of COVID-19 on a single firm than a large mix of portfolio.

· Dry Powder Advantage: These days, investors are demand more liquidity and the ability to rebalance their portfolios across asset classes. Due to this demand, a secondary market has emerged where investors may sell or buy private equity commitments rather than just waiting for a return. The seller of a PE share can access liquidity in the secondary market, just as in the normal stock market, while the buyer receives access to private equity funds and diversification.

It has been estimated that in the year 2020, players in the secondary market have enjoyed high levels of dry powder that is ready for deployment. They are in a position to enjoy profitability by buying in at above average discounts to lock in greater appreciation. With the current trends, it is estimated that the transaction value for secondaries will exceed $100 Bn by the end of 2021. The growth trend is not expected to end anytime soon as markets are now more liquid than ever due to technological innovations in the field and the growing acceptance of digital assets and tokenization.

Source: Acuity Knowledge Partners

Secondary Buyouts

Since 2006 to 2019, SBOs have witnessed a growth of 5.2% per year. This option has been experiencing rising popularity due to better liquidity options and lower risk staregies. Study conducted by Deloitte estimated that more than half of the investors surveyed expect SBO funds will offer one of the best opportunities for returns over 2020–2021.

Source: Deloitte Insights

The Way Forward

As a result of the current market dislocation, protracted volatility, and ongoing pandemic, the secondary market has seen lower pricing and more opportunities in younger assets. Financial decisions made by investors in the secondary market may be influenced by structural changes caused by economic crises, and failing to account for these fundamental breakdowns in the market may result in investors making incorrect interpretations and portfolio selections. However, secondaries are still, absolutely a great place to put your money. In the second half of 2020 and into 2021, the secondary market saw significant volume growth. Secondary transaction activity is expected to reach new highs in 2021.

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This article has been co-authored by Tamanna Kapur and Sargam Pallod , who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

The state of European Fintech and with the explosive growth and maturity, who are here to stay?

by Sandeep Kumar

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Overview of European Fintech Market

From payment processing to insurance and wealth management, the digitisation of the financial services has led to a massive growth of the fintech market all across the world. In this article we will be focusing on the European region in particular, where the fintech market is growing so rapidly that the fintech adoption in the region has surpassed that of the USA. At the start of the year 2021, Klarna was the only fintech decacorn in the region and now Revolut and Checkout have also joined the club. The year saw a record growth in the number of fintech unicorn additions as 19 startups were promoted to unicorn status.

Source: Crunchbase

Surge of Fintech Funding in Europe

Overall funding to European fintech scale-ups reached €4.55 Bn in 2017, but fell to €3.52 Bn in 2018. However, in 2019, European fintech businesses, particularly those in the growth and late-stage stages, witnessed a massive increase in fundraising rounds, culminating in a total of €8.81 Bn in fintech funding, a 150% increase over the previous year and nearly double the number in 2017. Around €4 Bn was raised by European fintech businesses in the first half of 2020, already more than in the full year of 2018, but lagging behind the trend of 2019, when more than €8.8 Bn was raised.

Fintech Investments size in European Funding Round till H1 2020

Regulatory Environment

The rise of non-financial companies into the tightly regulated financial sector has resulted in a rising need for regulators, the fintech community, and the financial services industry to properly engage with developments in this space. The vast bulk of financial services legislation and regulatory norms predate rapid technological advancements and consumer demand for change. While governments in a lot of nations want to be viewed as promoting innovation, the law has been slower to catch up.

Regulatory authorities across Europe, including the European Central Bank, the FCA in the United Kingdom, the AMF and ACPR in France, the AFM and DNB in the Netherlands, the European Commission and Parliament, the BaFin in Germany, the CSSF in Luxembourg, and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), have publicly stated their support and launched new regulatory initiatives to encourage innovation, along with the European Commission and Parliament, the European Central Bank, and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). The EU Commission has started a study on technology and its influence on the European financial services industry as part of its customer finance action plan, which is expected to have a substantial impact.

Growth in Europe’s FinTech Deals

With about a third of the region’s unicorns belonging to the fintech sector, companies have attracted the interest of the investors. With a collective valuation of $178 Bn, the market has raised more than $11 Bn in the present year. In the first half itself, the market had raised funding that was 1.5x of the previous year. While the number of deals in Q2- 2021 fell sequentially by 8%, the investments have grown by 30%. This has resulted in hitting a quarterly record of $7 Bn which was facilitated by megarounds of Klarna, Trade Republic, SaltPay, etc. The recent focus of investors as observed has been on wealth management and insurance tech.

Source: Crunchbase

Record Year for Fintech Exits

The growth of European fintech has also facilitated the rise of fintech exits in the region. The first half of 2021 witnessed about $26.5 Bn (or €22.6 Bn) worth of exits. This has been a record high in the exit scenario, and gives high hopes to investors, particularly after less than $2 Bn worth of exit activity in 2020.

The most successful one this year has been the public listing of Wise — a London-based money transfer company. The company went for direct listing in the London Stock Exchange which increased the company’s valuation to over $13 Bn as of August 2021. Apart from this, Tink and Currencycloud were strategically acquired by Visa for $2.1 Bn (€1.8 Bn) and $960 Mn (£700 Mn) respectively.

In total, fintech exits banked VCs $70 Bn during the period from January till July. Of the total figure, about 20% of the exit figures have come from Europe.

How are Different Segments Faring?

The use of technology in financial services is vast and gives rise to various segments including payment processing, neobanks, insuretech, crypto-exchange, wealth management tech, etc. Let us have a look at how some of these sectors have been performing:

 Payment Platform — With the digital payments sector expanding across the globe, this segment has benefited from a high proportion of funding received over the years. This is evident from the success stories of Klarna and Checkout. The pandemic has further accelerated the potential of the sector. Looking at the top 10 VC backed fintech exits in the region, more than half of the companies belong to the payments and money transfer segment, these include WorldPay, Wise, Adyen, etc.

 Insurtech — This segment has been witnessing greater attention from investors since 2020. In the first quarter of 2020, insurtech comprised about 20% of the total fintech rounds in Europe. The sector’s combined valuation for the year amounts to over $23 Bn. Insurtech funding in Q2 of 2021, has increased by about 403% on just Quarter on Quarter basis.

 WealthTech — Wealth management technology companies, or simply the WealthTech sector has also led growth along with the insurtech sector, witnessing an increase in the investor preference. While the number of deals for the segment increased by only 9%, the funding in Q2 of 2021 grew by 272% on Quarter on Quarter basis.

 Cryptocurrency and DeFi — Cryptocurrency and Decentralised Finance (DeFi) are gaining momentum in the finance world. With great buzz around crypto, the funding in such companies has jumped 300% from what it was in 2019, amounting to $1.4 Bn this year. Some examples of companies in this segment include — Elliptic, Blockchain.com, Copper, etc.

 Other Segments — Looking at the Quarter on Quarter funding rounds, funds in fintechs involved in the banking segment as well as capital markets rose by 70% individually and digital lending by 64%. On the other hand, QoQ investments in real-estate fintechs fell by 87%.

How has the Pandemic Impacted the Market and What is the Way Forward

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been greater reliance on digitization of various operations across different industries. This has facilitated the growth of the fintech sector post-pandemic as businesses are working to adapt to the new normal. The regulatory environment has also supported the growth process in the European region, so much that it is now performing better than North America. Particularly, the payments segment has always been investors’ favourite, however, the post-pandemic focus of investors has shifted towards insurtech and wealth management tech firms.

We believe the current boom of the fintech market in the continent is to be continued in the coming years. This is evident from the significant growth in the VC funding in recent years, with the overall funding round size average increasing by over 100% compared to three years ago. Investors are expected to gain huge returns from the growing valuations of some unicorns and their great successful exits.

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

Security Tokens: The next big trend which will revolutionize the Private Markets

by Sandeep Kumar

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Understanding Security Tokens

Blockchain is one of the most rapidly growing digital technologies in recent history, and its revolutionary decentralized model is being adopted by a wide range of industries. With the total Security Token market crossing $1 Bn in total volumes in July 2021, the discussion around how security tokens can transform and enable access to otherwise inaccessible private markets has been growing. Security tokens are essentially digital contracts that are blockchain-based protocols embedded in the network for fractions of any existing asset, such as real estate, a car, or corporate stock.

When investors use security tokens, their ownership stake is recorded on the blockchain ledger. With their ability to demonstrate value, security tokens have the potential to disrupt traditional financial markets in favor of newer, more hybrid blockchain models. They combine the merits of blockchain technology and regulated securities market, offering a wide range of financial assets including fractional ownership opportunities which allow investors to trade even the most illiquid assets like private shares, real estate, art, and even esoteric assets like vintage cars.

Owing to these benefits, there has been increasing adoption of STO in both public and private markets, so much so that some expect it to even outperform the traditional markets in the next 5–10 years.

Evolution of STOs and their Growth

The idea of STOs evolved from Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) which serve as utility tokens distributed to raise capital from investors. ICOs may even involve the use of virtual assets that are yet to be built on the ecosystem. Since the launch of Ethereum in 2014, ICOs were successfully issued for several securities till 2016. However, with its success, the number of scams in the ICO market also increased with about 80% of the ICO projects deemed to be a fraud. These issues led to the development of STOs as they provide a shield of compliance, regulation, and tokenization to digital assets transactions.

The roots for STOs were set up in 2017, and it started to gain traction in 2018 with a total of 28 STOs raising a collective value of $442 Mn during the year. As per PWC’s 6th ICO/ STO report, over $4 Bn was raised through 380 token offerings in the year 2020. Tokenization of assets and the subsequent market for STOs is expected to witness exponential growth in the future, growing at a CAGR of 59% during the period 2019–2030.

How Do Security Tokens Work?

Making a security token entails reserving and naming your token symbol, developing a token that can enforce regulatory compliance through programming, and minting and distributing the token to investors. When an off-chain traditional financial asset is represented on-chain, it becomes a tokenized security. Tokenizing an existing share certificate is a good example. An issuer creates a security token that represents a claim to ownership in a company. The issuer then creates a whitelist of wallet addresses (typically Ethereum) of investors who are permitted to purchase stock in the company or invest in the concerned security. All individuals on the whitelist must demonstrate that they comply with the restrictions for that specific security.

If you try to trade a security token with a counterparty, the Issuer will check to see if they are whitelisted. If they are, the transaction is completed. If not, it will display an error message and you will be unable to complete the transaction. This is possible through smart contracts, or autonomous contracts on the Blockchain, which give the ability to be automated and transacted with little cost and in a short amount of time. Security tokens, in contrast to the majority of other crypto assets, are not bearer instruments. Because anyone who obtains your Bitcoin private key has the ability to spend your Bitcoin, it is a bearer instrument.

The security token is an electronic representation of the security rather than the security itself, hence cannot be stolen. No one can transfer a token to their wallet unless it is whitelisted; otherwise, they would have gone through KYC/AML and you would have known who they were. Hence, security tokens are well secured.

Types of Security Tokens and their Acceptability

· Equity Tokens  The ownership of an item, like corporate stock or debt, is represented by equity tokens.

· Asset-backed Tokens — This is a blockchain-based token that is linked to a tangible or intangible object of significant value.

· Utility Tokens — Utility tokens give users access to a product or service at a later time. Companies can utilize these to raise funds for blockchain project development.

· Debt Tokens — Debt tokens are the equivalent of a short-term loan with an interest rate based on the amount borrowed by the company. Example — Steem.

How are security tokens transforming the private markets?

Due to limited access, opaque pricing, intermediaries, high minimums of $100K+, limited liquidity choices, time-consuming and burdensome legalities, and other factors, non-institutional investors are unable to have easy and direct access to high-quality private market investment possibilities.

Security tokens allow investors to buy, sell, and swap rights to shares of private corporations using digital tokens, overcoming the problems in the secondary market for private equity. It’s critical that it records, issues, and validates sales all at once. This benefits both existing secondary market investors and makes secondary markets more accessible to a wider group of investors. It ensures transparent ownership and pricing.

A digital token would allow an investor to sell security far more readily than actual shares in a startup (which require notarial acts or intermediaries). We’re talking about a type of investment that combines the safety and security of reality — owing to a stable value represented by a real asset — with the investment simplicity of the blockchain world, which requires no notary deeds or lengthy processes to manage securities, but only a digital wallet! Investing in private markets is as easy as in public markets.

Benefits of Security Tokens

· Improves accessibility to real-world digitized assets

With a total of $256 Tn in real-world assets available globally, asset classes such as fine arts and real estate have numerous opportunities to open up trading spheres and be traded easily and quickly with STOs.

· Enabling Fractional ownership

Security tokens can be used to raise cash for large-scale investments. The value of a costly art collection can be split down into fractions and distributed to a large number of investors using security tokens. The security token investors would benefit from the increase in the value of art collectibles. People can build their portfolios without having to spend a big sum of money since security tokens allow investors to acquire fractions of fine art or collectibles. However, semantics, such as dividing the value into fractional ownership, must be addressed.

· Provides Increased Liquidity

Liquidity is determined by the number of traders (sellers and buyers) in a particular market. Accelerating transactions and fractional ownership through asset tokenization has the potential to increase liquidity by allowing more people to enter the investment space and buy/sell at higher volumes. Security tokens increase liquidity by making it easier to buy and sell in a market or underlying asset that is not available or difficult to buy or sell. Security token offerings are a win-win situation in terms of overall liquidity when it comes to asset classes that were illiquid in nature.

· Transparency

The status of a security token transaction can be tracked from start to finish, and all parties involved have access to an up-to-date golden source of truth on-chain. With an up-to-date record, it reduces record-keeping disputes and the need for parties to reconcile.

· Reduces Cost

Security tokens aim to eliminate intermediaries and simplify investing for investors. Chainiumu, a crowdfunding platform, was created with the sole purpose of connecting investors to investors without the use of go-betweens. In the long run, this will increase accountability and transparency. With an STO, businesses can enable investment through tokenization. Because smart contracts can embed trading restrictions into a token, the cost of an IPO or other securities trading can be significantly reduced.

Major projects in the STO space

· Tezos

BTG Pactual, Latin America’s third-largest investment bank, and Dalma Capital, a Dubai-based asset manager, announced plans to launch security token offerings on the Tezos blockchain in 2019. According to a press release, the banks hope to “address a deal pipeline of more than $1 Bn for existing and prospective token issuances.”

· TZero

tZERO is a technology company whose mission is to democratize access to private capital markets. It is a subsidiary of Medici Ventures, Overstock.com, Inc.’s blockchain-focused wholly-owned subsidiary. tZero was created to provide more legitimacy and oversight to initial coin offerings (ICOs), as well as to allow businesses to create and issue tokenized assets for investors. tZero, unlike other decentralized blockchain platforms, has been designated as an alternative trading system (ATS) and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

· Polymath

The platform’s primary goal is to assist traditional financial securities in integrating with blockchain technology. Polymath is based on the fact that tangible assets are being drawn towards being a part of blockchain technology, which is primarily powered by its native token (Poly). Polymath is made up of four core layers that define token creation and adherence to the operating guidelines. These include the Protocol layer, Application layer, Legal layer, and Exchange layer.

In general, the protocol layer is in charge of all platform computation. The application layer, on the other hand, allows users to generate their security tokens. Those who want to create tokens on the forum can get help from the legal layer. Finally, the exchange layer functions more like a closed-end KYC/AML accreditation, providing users with instant liquidity for their assets.

Developments that needs to be catered in the long run

· Wider acceptability

STOs will take time to gain trust due to the poor reputation of ICOs in the market. To be accepted by the mass, major financial institutions must vouch for STOs. This would take some time, even with the security of regulatory requirements. The time has come to impose regulatory requirements that will act as an excellent first line of defense and protect investors.

· Integrating systems and requirements

Companies will be responsible for developing data transport protocols and interfaces, as well as writing and maintaining the existing system architecture. This may necessitate the use of specialized skill sets, which will increase costs in terms of both human resources and system enhancements to interface with SSTO-specific blockchain technologies.

A glimpse of the future

It is clear that significant changes are already taking place in the realm of finance and investing, and many of them have the potential to be beneficial. This is especially true for people who are enthusiastic about blockchain technology and the opportunities it provides. Security Tokens combine blockchain technology with the requirements of regulated securities markets to facilitate asset liquidity and financial accessibility. These tokens are regulated securities that are issued in the form of digital tokens in a blockchain ecosystem. Through automation and “smart contracts,” the blockchain environment promotes securities regulatory objectives of disclosure, fairness, and market integrity, as well as innovation and efficiency. The security token market cap increased by more than 500% in 2020, and the best is yet to come for security token offerings. Securities, which are traded financial assets such as equities, debt, and more, can become even more effective by employing blockchain as a foundation.

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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.

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