SoftBank invests in Alphabet business for cellphone antennas in the sky: Reuters


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A SoftBank Corp subsidiary said on Wednesday it had invested $125 million in an Alphabet Inc company that is working to fly cellphone antennas high in the atmosphere to provide internet in areas that are difficult to reach.

SoftBank’s HAPSMobile, which has also been trying to fly networking equipment at high altitudes to provide high-speed internet to areas that are out of range of land towers, said it had invested in Loon, a unit of the Google owner.

Loon, spun out from Alphabet’s business incubator in July, carries the gear with a long balloon, while HAPSMobile uses a drone. Both systems are solar powered, limiting the areas they can serve to equatorial regions of the globe.

Mobile network operators, governments and other potential clients have yet to demonstrate much enthusiasm for buying such technologies, despite the need to plug gaps in internet coverage in rural areas or at times of

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Foundry chemicals group ASK put up for sale, say sources: Reuters


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ASK Chemicals, a maker or chemicals used in foundries, has been put up for sale by its private equity owner amid a flurry of dealmaking in the chemicals sector, people close to the matter said.

Buyout group Rhone Capital is working with Citi on the deal, which may value the Germany-based supplier of binders, additives, feeders, filters and metallurgical products at up to 500 million euros ($559 million), the people said.

Rhone, which bought ASK Chemical from former joint owners Clariant and Ashland for $350 million in 2014, is expected to send out information packages to potential buyers in mid May, they added.

Rhone and Citi declined to comment.

Rhone is expected to market ASK Chemical to peers such as Vesuvius, Imerys, RHI, Huettenes-Albertus as well as private equity firms, the people said.

“ASK is heavily geared toward foundries, typically suppliers to the auto industry. So the question will

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Asterion frontrunner for Telefonica’s data center deal, says source: Reuters


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Investment fund Asterion is ahead of its competitors to buy the data center business of Spanish telecoms operator Telefonica, a source with knowledge of the deal told Reuters on Wednesday.

Spanish online newspaper El Confidencial first reported the deal on Wednesday, saying Asterion will pay 600 million euros($669.18 million) for the asset.

Telefonica said in a statement on Wednesday that it was in an advanced stage of negotiations for the sale of some of its data centers but that no deal had been confirmed yet.

Asterion declined to comment.

Asterion has emerged ahead of rival bids from infrastructure and investment funds, the source said, although no deal has been finalised or agreed.

The deal would be the first in Spain by Asterion, whose CEO is Jesus Olmos, former KKR Global Co-Head of Infrastructure. The sale would allow Telefonica to reduce its 40.4 billion euro debt pile.

Last

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Caterer Elior’s shares rise on 1.54 billion euro offer for its Areas unit: Reuters


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French catering company Elior said it had got a firm offer of 1.542 billion euros ($1.7 billion) from private equity firm PAI Partners for its ‘Areas’ concession catering business, helping to give a lift to Elior’s shares.

Elior said it expected to close the sale during this summer, and added it would use the proceeds of the deal to cut its debt.

Elior, which competes with Sodexo and Compass, has embarked on an overhaul of its business after issuing several profit warnings in recent years, and the sale of the Areas arm formed part of plans to sell non-core assets.

Elior’s shares rose 2.3 percent, with the valuation of Areas coming in at the top end of earlier estimates.

Sources had previously told Reuters that the sale of the Areas business, which was led by Morgan Stanley and BNP Paribas, could have been worth between 1 billion

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Wirecard lands $1 billion investment from Japan’s Softbank: Reuters


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BERLIN (Reuters) – Japan’s Softbank Group Corp will buy a 5.6 percent stake in Wirecard for around 900 million euros ($1 billion), the German company said on Wednesday, joining forces in the digital payments sector.

Shares in Wirecard jumped 10 percent to the top of Germany’s blue-chip index as analysts welcomed the investment as a vote of confidence in the business that will allow the Munich-based firm to enlarge its operations in Asia.

Under the agreement, Wirecard will issue bonds exclusively to an affiliate of Softbank that will convert into 6.92 million Wirecard shares after five years, currently equivalent to around 5.6 percent of the company.

The conversion price of 130 euros per share represents a 5 percent premium to Wirecard’s closing share price on Tuesday. Shareholders will vote on the bond issuance at its annual meeting on June 18.

Wirecard, founded in 1999, ousted lender Commerzbank

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Uber’s self-driving unit valued at $7.25 billion in new investment: Reuters


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Uber’s autonomous vehicle unit has raised $1 billion from a consortium of investors including SoftBank Group Corp, giving the company a much-needed funding boost for its pricey self-driving ambitions on the eve of its public stock offering.

Uber Technologies Inc said on Thursday that the investment values its Advanced Technologies Group, which works to develop autonomous driving technology, at $7.25 billion. SoftBank will invest $333 million from its $100 billion Vision Fund, while Toyota Motor Corp and automotive parts supplier Denso Corp will invest a combined $667 million.

Toyota will also contribute up to an additional $300 million over the next three years to help cover the costs of building commercial self-driving vehicles, Uber said.

Reuters had reported in March talks of the investment in ATG.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that the funding “will help maintain Uber’s position at the forefront of” a transforming transportation industry.

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Osram in “good talks” with Bain, Carlyle after report of bid doubts: Reuters


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German lighting group Osram said on Thursday that talks with Bain Capital and Carlyle Group were continuing, after Manager Magazin said the private equity firms could walk away from a possible takeover.

The Munich-based group, which is grappling with weakness in the automotive industry and a broader economic slowdown, said in February that Bain and Carlyle were looking at whether to jointly bid for up to 100 percent of its shares.

“We are currently in good talks with Bain Capital and Carlyle. Nothing has changed there,” the spokesman told Reuters.

Manager Magazine said that Osram’s gloomy earnings prospects meant the private equity groups wanted to pay less for it.

Bain Capital declined to comment on the report, while Carlyle Group could not immediately be reached for comment.

Shares in Osram reversed some losses following Osram’s statement, but were trading down 4.3 percent at 31.5 euros by 0915 GMT.

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Israeli AI-for-radiology startup Aidoc raises $27 million: Reuters


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Israel’s Aidoc, which provides artificial intelligence tools for radiologists, said on Wednesday it raised $27 million, bringing its total funding to $40 million.

The funding round, led by venture capital firm Square Peg Capital, will be used to grow Aidoc’s technology and marketing team. Its technology is in use at over 100 medical centers.

“Our aim is to reach 500 hospitals in the next two years,” Aidoc co-founder and CEO Elad Walach said.

Aidoc said its technology, approved by U.S. and European regulators, helps radiologists expedite patient treatment, improve quality of care and flags the most critical cases.

Aramco plans to buy Shell’s stake in Saudi refining JV, say sources: Reuters


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Saudi Aramco plans to buy Royal Dutch Shell’s 50 percent stake in Saudi refining complex SASREF, a joint venture between the firms, two sources said on Wednesday.

One of the sources said an agreement has been reached between Aramco and Shell.
Aramco and Shell declined to comment.

Saudi Aramco Shell Refinery Co (SASREF), based in Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia, has a crude oil refining capacity of 305,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Shell has sold over $30 billion of assets in recent years as it shift its focus to lower carbon businesses such as natural gas and petrochemicals.

Energy Intelligence first reported the stake purchase plan earlier on Wednesday.

Event software maker Bizzabo raises $27 million in private funding: Reuters


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Bizzabo, a U.S.-Israeli maker of software to manage and personalize professional events, said on Wednesday it raised $27 million in a funding round led by Viola Growth.

The latest round brings Bizzabo’s total fundraising to $56 million and will help the company expand its platform and grow its research and development, it said.

New investor Next47, as well as existing investors such as Pilot Growth, which led the company’s previous round, also participated in this round.

Bizzabo said it more than doubled its revenue in the last year and is working with Forbes, Dow Jones, Gainsight, Drift and others. It said its data-powered technology helps companies create, manage and execute professional events.

CEO Eran Ben-Shushan said one-quarter of business-to-business companies’ marketing is spent on live events.

Buyout firm Apollo to buy Smart & Final Stores for $1.1 billion


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Apollo Global Management LLC said on Tuesday it will acquire Smart & Final Stores Inc for about $1.1 billion, including debt, the second time the private equity firm will own the U.S. food retailer.

The deal comes after Apollo sold Smart & Final to Ares Management Corp, another buyout firm, in 2012 for $975 million, including debt. It is Apollo’s latest bet on the brick-and-mortar grocery sector, even after its last acquisition in the space, its $1.4 billion leveraged buyout of Fresh Market Inc in 2016, has soured amid increasing competition.

Apollo will pay $6.50 per share in cash for Smart & Final, a 21 percent premium to its closing share price on Tuesday. The shares soared in after-hours trading after Reuters reported on the deal ahead of the announcement.

Smart & Final operates 324 grocery and food service stores in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada,

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Siris Capital to buy Electronics For Imaging for $1.6 billion: Reuters


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Digital printing company Electronics For Imaging Inc said on Monday private equity firm Siris Capital Group LLC would buy the company for about $1.6 billion in cash.

The $37-per-share offer represents a premium of about 26 percent to the company’s closing price on Friday.

The deal, which has been approved by Electronics For Imaging’s (EFI) board, includes a 45-day “go-shop” period, which allows the company to consider alternative offers, it said.

Including debt, the deal is valued at about $1.7 billion.

In its latest reported quarter, EFI’s revenue slid 5 percent on weakness in its key industrial inkjet business, which accounts for more than half of the company’s overall revenue.

The deal is expected to close by the third quarter of 2019.

EFI also said it would file its first-quarter report but does not intend to host a quarterly earnings call. It expects first-quarter revenue to be between

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Advertising group Publicis’ shares boosted by $4.4 billion Epsilon deal: Reuters


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PARIS (Reuters) – Publicis’ shares rose on Monday as analysts welcomed the French advertising company’s $4.4 billion takeover of marketing and data company Epsilon.

Publicis said on Sunday that it would buy Epsilon from U.S. company Alliance Data, expanding Publicis’ digital business and North American footprint.

Publicis shares were up 4.2 percent in early trading. Analysts at brokerage Liberum kept a “buy” rating on the stock, saying the Epsilon deal looked positive.

“With a suggested double-digit adjusted earnings per share/free cash flow accretion, the transaction looks attractive on financial terms and gives Publicis an increased amount of consumer data,” the Liberum analysts said.

Publicis and other traditional advertisers, such as WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic face losing ground to new technology and software giants.

The traditional advertisers are having to cope with increasing competition from the likes of Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and

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WPP expects at least five private equity bids for Kantar, say sources: Reuters


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WPP has attracted at least five of the world’s biggest private equity firms into an auction for a majority stake in its data analytics unit Kantar ahead of a deadline for indicative bids on Apr. 17, sources told Reuters.

U.S. private equity funds Bain Capital and Apollo are putting the finishing touches to their rival bids and will compete with European funds CVC Capital Partners, Permira and Apax.

The bidding field includes two other private equity investors, one of the sources said, without naming them.

Bain Capital and Permira declined to comment while Apollo, CVC and Apax were not immediately available.

The auction – led by Goldman Sachs – is gaining momentum as the deadline for first round bids looms.

But private equity investors, who have been reviewing the business in recent weeks, are taking a conservative approach to valuation.

Bids are expected to value Kantar at single digit

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Macquarie fund kicks off sale of wind assets in Italy and France: Reuters


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A Macquarie-run infrastructure fund managing the Renvico wind farm portfolio in Italy and France has started a process to sell the company which could be worth around 400 million euros ($450 million), four sources familiar with the matter said.

The fund, advised by Rothschild, has sent out teasers and information memoranda will follow at the end of the month, two of the sources said.

Non-binding bids are expected by the end of May, one source said, but another said no time-frame had yet been set.

“The equity value of the deal is around 150 million euros,” a source said.

Macquarie and Rothschild declined to comment.

Renvico, founded in 2015 when Macquarie bought the green energy business of Italy’s Sorgenia Group, manages wind farms in Italy and France with a total capacity of around 334 megawatts.
After the sale last year of Terra Firma’s Italian solar portfolio RTR, Renvico remains

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Lone Star emerges as frontrunner in Saint-Gobain auction, say sources: Reuters


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U.S. buyout firm Lone Star has emerged as the frontrunner to buy the German building materials business of France’s Saint-Gobain in a deal valued at up to 400 million euros ($450 million), four sources familiar with the matter said.

Lone Star is using its Nordic building materials supplier Stark as an acquisition vehicle to purchase the unit, known as Raab Karcher, the sources said.

Stark was recently admitted to the second round of an auction process which kicked off in January, the sources said.

Private equity fund Platinum also made it to the final stages of the process, while U.S. rival Advent initially expressed interest but subsequently dropped out, they said.

The sources said Lone Star is ahead of Platinum as it has a more attractive business proposition due to the synergies it would extract by combining Stark and Raab Karcher.

The two funds are still carrying out

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Amazon buys warehouse robotics startup Canvas Technology: Reuters


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Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday said it had acquired Canvas Technology, a robotics startup in Boulder, Colorado, that has built autonomous carts that can move goods around warehouses.

An Amazon spokeswoman did not comment on the deal’s price tag but said the companies “share a common vision for a future where people work alongside robotics to further improve safety and the workplace experience. We look forward to working with Canvas Technology’s fantastic team to keep inventing for customers.”

The world’s largest online retailer has increasingly automated its fulfillment centers with robots, originally from Kiva Systems which it agreed to buy for $775 million in 2012, that transport shelves of inventory to workers to pick customer orders. Amazon has also shown growing interest in self-driving technology more broadly, recently participating in a $530 million funding round in driverless car startup Aurora Innovation Inc.

The deal was earlier reported by TechCrunch.

Cybersecurity firm Cofense says Pamplona to sell stake after U.S. probe: Reuters


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U.S. cybersecurity firm Cofense Inc said on Wednesday that buyout firm Pamplona Capital Management is seeking to sell its stake in the company following a year-long probe by U.S. national security regulators.

Pamplona declined to comment.

The pressure to divest comes as Washington increases scrutiny on foreign ownership of U.S. technology companies, including by China, and is paying closer attention to deals that could compromise the personal data of U.S. citizens. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment report cited Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. political system.

Pamplona bought a minority stake in Cofense, which serves major corporations, in February 2018, when the company was known as PhishMe. Pamplona’s funds been partly backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, who was on a February 2018 “oligarchs’ list” published by the U.S. Treasury Department, sources familiar with the matter said.

The Committee

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Insurance startup Lemonade raises $300 million to fuel expansion: Reuters


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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tech-driven insurance startup Lemonade Inc has signed a $300 million funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp , the company said on Thursday.

Other investors included insurer Allianz SE, Alphabet Inc’s venture capital arm GV, General Catalyst, OurCrowd and Thrive Capital.

The company will use the funds to expand in the United States, launch in Europe and grow its product offering beyond home and rental insurance, Lemonade Chief Executive Daniel Schreiber said in an interview.

Lemonade, which started in New York in late 2016, is part of a growing number of young companies looking to shake up the insurance sector through better use of technology. It offers insurance in 25 U.S. states and markets itself as a company that has nothing to gain by denying claims because it donates any money left over to charities chosen by its customers.

Lemonade

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EQT, Digital Colony, Stonepeak group near deal to buy Zayo, say sources: Reuters


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A consortium including investment firms Digital Colony Partners LP, EQT AB and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners has secured exclusive rights to negotiate a deal to buy U.S. communications infrastructure provider Zayo Group Holdings Inc, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The deal, potentially one of the biggest leveraged buyouts of the year, would come after activist hedge fund Starboard Value LP disclosed a 4 percent stake in Zayo last month and pressed it to seriously consider a sale.

Zayo shares jumped as much as 7.4 percent before easing to $31.15, up 5.8 percent.
After rejecting multiple offers from private equity bidders over the last few months, Zayo agreed to negotiate with the consortium exclusively after it received an offer it deemed attractive enough, the sources said.

The exact offer could not be learned, but sources said it would value Zayo at between $8 billion and

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