Term Sheet — Tuesday, March 7
PRIVATE EQUITY’S TRUMP PROBLEM
Good morning. In today’s guest column, Fortune editor Stephen Gandel examines the pitfalls of a Trump presidency for private equity execs. Follow him on Twitter here.
A few years ago, when one of their own was running for president, a number of private equity executives seemed worried that the industry might have a Mitt Romney problem.
It wasn’t all about the bad publicity that private equity got during the 2012 campaign, though many weren’t thrilled about that. The real concern: What would happen if Romney won? Every move by Romney, tax changes or regulator easing, would be scrutinized as to whether it was too friendly to his former colleagues. What would happen when the Justice Department had to approve a controversial PE-driven consolidation?
What’s more, any big deal that private equity did, particularly any done by his old firm Bain Capital, would likely be subject to more media attention then ever. The concern was that fear of a backlash might make a Romney administration generally critical of the industry and big PE deals, so that his old connections to the industry didn’t become a liability.
Of course, the private equity dodged that bullet in 2012. President Obama, as you may remember, won a second term. But the question now is whether private equity’s Trump problem is as big as its Romney problem ever would have been.
While Trump doesn’t come from private equity, though real estate investing in increasingly a big part of what private equity firms do, many of the people in his administration, or advising it, do. Wilbur Ross most recently ran a private equity firm, doing leveraged buying outs of battered companies in the steel and coal business among others, before taking the job as head of the Department of Commerce under Trump. Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s treasury secretary, technically ran a hedge fund, but his buyout of bank OneWest at the height of the financial crisis might as well be a private equity deal. Trump also named former Warbug Pincus partner Kenneth Juster as his top international economics advisor. The most notable Trump private equity executive is Steve Schwarzman, who is still the head of Blackstone, but has taken on being chairman of Trump’s recently created Strategic and Policy Forum, an advisory board made up of CEOs.
And while Steven Feinberg, head of secretive private equity firm Cerberus Capital, doesn’t officially have a job in the White House, he does appear to be traveling in Trump’s orbit. Not to mention Jay Clayton, who is not technically from the private equity industry, but also did a lot of PE deals while in his most recent job at Sullivan & Cromwell.
All those ties could lead to a PE-friendly administration, but it could also hamstring the industry, or at least some players. Blackstone owned companies might be reluctant to move manufacturing overseas, even if that would save costs, or even potentially buy a foreign company that seemed to be taking jobs away from America. Trump in the campaign talked about getting rid of the carried interest tax credit. If he doesn’t now, will that look like he is keeping the loophole to benefit his friends and cabinet members.
And Trump hasn’t been good for private equity’s big picture, at least so far. Talk of his stimulus policies has driven up the stock market, making deals more expensive at a time private equity firms have a record amount of cash to invest. And the Fed seems poised to raise interest rates again later this month, in part because of concerns that Trump’s stimulus efforts could be inflationary. And that’s not good for PE’s bread-and-butter LBO deals.
And PE firms will have to adjust to the new Trump administration at a time when they are facing their own internal problems. Out this morning is a new report on the industry from the Boston Consulting Group. While the BCG report has the rosy title of Capitalizing on the New Golden Age in Private Equity, it says the industry faces some serious growing pains as more and more investors keep throwing money at the industry as alternatives (such as hedge funds) have sucked wind.
The report zeroes in on three areas the PE industry is behind: technology, talent, and management capability. Perhaps its most pointed criticism is that none of the major private equity firms seemed to have a coherent succession strategy, or appropriate representation of women in their upper ranks. The report also says the industry still hasn’t done enough to move away from “just merely acting as a source of capital and toward true strategic partnerships.” BCG singled out Romney’s old firm Bain Capital, as well as Advent International and EQT, as being ahead of their rivals in helping portfolio firms map out a “detailed value plans.” You can read the entire report here. — Stephen Gandel
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• iflix, a Malaysian subscription service for videos on demand, raised $90 million in funding. Investors include Liberty Global, Zain, Sky PLC, Catcha Group, and EMC.
• Confluent, a Palo Alto, Calif. streaming platform, raised $50 million in Series C funding. Sequoia led the round, and was joined by Benchmark and Index Ventures.
• Qapital, a New York personal finance app, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Investors include Northzone, Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Industrifonden, and Rocketship VC.
• LoopMe, a London provider of AI advertising technologies, raised $10 million in funding. Impulse VC and Harbert European Growth Capital led the round, with participation from Holzbrinck Ventures and Open Ocean Capital.
• AgroStar, an Indian mobile commerce platform for farmers, raised $10 million in funding, according to the Economic Times. Accel led the round. Read more.
• Function of Beauty, a New York manufacturer of hair care products, raised $9.5 million in Series A funding. GGV Capital led the round, and was joined by Y Combinator, Bessemer, and SoGal Ventures.
• Quidd, a Brooklyn, N.Y. platform for digital collecting, raised $6.8 million in funding from angel investors.
• Mass Appeal, a New York city media and content company focused on urban culture, raised $6 million in Series A funding. Universal Music Group led the round, and was joined by Evolution Media, Jon Jashni, Charles King, Michael Kassan, Usher, Steve Stoute, Karen Lauder, White Owl Capital, and Nas.
• Caicloud, a Chinese cloud computing company, raised $6 million in Series A funding. Matrix Partners China led the round.
• Isotropic Systems, a London developer of satellite antennas, raised $5 million in funding. Waterlow Management led the round.
• Current, a New York fintech company that provides collaborative banking services, raised $3.6 million in seed funding. Investors include Expa, Human Ventures, and Future Perfect Ventures.
• Epicrop Technologies, a Lincoln, Neb. agriculture biotech company, raised $3.2 million in Series A funding. TechAccel, North Forty Ventures, Nelnet, Speedway Properties, and Allen & Company all invested in the round.
HEALTH + LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Velano Vascular, a San Francisco medical device company, raised $17 million in funding. Investors include Kapor Capital, First Round Capital, and Safeguard Scientifics. [This item has been updated to only include investors participating in this latest round of funding.]
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• CI Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Simplified Logistics, a Westlake, Ohio third-party logistics provider. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Francisco Partners agreed to acquire a 16.7% stake in Iconectiv, a New Jersey developer of services that enable operators to interconnect networks, from Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) for $200 million.
• Dynamic Dental Partners Group, a Palmetto, Fla.-based dental practice management company backed by Huron Capital, acquired Dental Partners, a Melbourne, Fla.-based provider of dental services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
•FirstLight Fiber, an Albany, N.Y. maker of fiber-based communication networks backed by Oak Hill Capital Partners, agreed to acquire Finger Lakes Technologies Group, a Victor, N.Y. telecommunications company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• RadioShack’s parent company is preparing to declare bankruptcy for the second time in two years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Read more.
• Standard Life (LSE:SL.) agreed to acquire Aberdeen Asset Management (LSE:ADN) for £3.8 billion ($4.6 billion) in an all-share deal, according to Reuters. Read more.
• Amazon’s (Nasdaq:AMZN) cloud computing arm acquired Thinkbox Software, a developer of production tools in the visual media industries.
• Brookfield Asset Management (TSX:BAM.A) agreed to purchase TerraForm Global (Nasdaq:GLBL) for about $787 million and buy a 51% stake in TerraForm Power (Nasdaq:TERP) for $1.7 billion, according to Reuters. Both are units of SunEdison (OTCPK:SUNE.Q), which filed for bankruptcy last year. Read more.
• Ardagh Group, a Irish manufacturer of glass and metal containers, set its IPO terms. The company is seeking to raise as much as $370 million by selling 16.2 million shares priced between $17 to $20 each. Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs & Co, Barclays, Credit Suisse, and JPMorgan serve as the joint bookrunners. Read more. [Update: a previous version of this item misstated where Ardagh is headquartered]
• MuleSoft set its IPO terms. The San Francisco software company, which raised $250 million in VC funding, is seeking to sell 13 million shares priced between $12 and $14 per share. Investors include Lightspeed, which owns 17.1% of Mulesoft, Hummer Winblad (17.8%), NEA (16.1%), Morganthanler Partners (8.4%), Sapphire Ventures (7%), and Bay Partners (6.6%).
• CA Technologies (Nasdaq:CA) agreed to acquire Veracode, a Burlington, Mass.-based cybersecurity company, for $614 million in cash. Veracode raised more than $110 million in VC funding from investors including Wellington Management, Founders Circle Capital, and Starvest Partners.
• Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO) acquired Core Informatics, a Branford, Conn. provider of data management services. Core Informatics raised $22.5 million in venture funding from investors including Oak HC/FT, KLP Enterprises, and Launch Capital.
• The Carlyle Group (Nasdaq: CG) agreed to sell ITRS, a London software vendor, to TA Associates. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Okta, a San Francisco identity management company, acquired Stormpath, a San Mateo, Calif. provider of authentication management services for developers, according to TechCrunch. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Stormpath raised around $25 million in venture funding. Backers include Flybridge Capital Partners, Scale Venture Partners, NEA, and Pelion Venture Partners. Read more.
• MeetMe (Nasdaq: MEET) agreed to acquire If(we), a San Francisco app developer, for $60 million in cash. If(we) raised $23.7 million in venture funding. Backers include Leader Ventures and Lighthouse Capital Partners.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• QIC, an Australian government-owned investment manager, raised A$2.35 billion ($1.8 billion) for its QIC Global Infrastructure Fund.
• Lemnos, a San Francisco early-stage hardware venture capital firm, raised $50 million for its third fund.
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