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China launches crewed Shenzhou-12 mission to test core component of its future space station - rt

China launches crewed Shenzhou-12 mission to test core component of its future space station

A rocket carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft with three Chinese astronauts on board has blasted off from China’s Inner Mongolia in a historic launch that is critical for the completion of the country’s own space station.
rt - 1 hour ago
Trial of Germany’s CureVac vaccine shows only 47% effect against Covid-19, falling short of great expectations - rt

Trial of Germany’s CureVac vaccine shows only 47% effect against Covid-19, falling short of great expectations

Praised just recently as “hope for the unvaccinated world,” a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Germany’s CureVac is only 47% effective against the coronavirus. As its stock collapsed, the company blamed new virus variants.
rt - 4 hours ago
Ghislaine Maxwell complains of vermin droppings and raw sewage in jail cell - metro

Ghislaine Maxwell complains of vermin droppings and raw sewage in jail cell

The smell of sewage that 'permeated' into Maxwell's cell was so terrible that she had to move to another cell, the complaint
metro - 6 hours ago
The adorable hazel dormouse is celebrating a big milestone - metro

The adorable hazel dormouse is celebrating a big milestone

Efforts are underway to save to save the tiny threatened mammals.
metro - 6 hours ago
Brussels to assess if Hungary’s new ban on sharing LGBT content with under-18s breaches EU law – von der Leyen - rt

Brussels to assess if Hungary’s new ban on sharing LGBT content with under-18s breaches EU law – von der Leyen

The president of the European Commission has announced the body is looking into whether Hungary’s ban on the sharing of homosexual and transgender content to those under 18 years of age is a breach of EU law.
rt - 8 hours ago
Most Germans say freedom of speech is in jeopardy, many name Islam and patriotism among topics they cannot speak freely about - rt

Most Germans say freedom of speech is in jeopardy, many name Islam and patriotism among topics they cannot speak freely about

A majority of German citizens believe that freedom of expression is in danger, the latest poll shows. ‘Patriotism’ and Islam were named among topics one should be particularly careful about.
rt - 8 hours ago
Shirley Manson says day of reckoning coming for music industry - channel 4

Shirley Manson says day of reckoning coming for music industry

A toxic mix of power and sexual exploitation: the lead singer of alternative rock band Garbage, Shirley Manson, claims the music industry is riddled with sexism, misogyny and abuse.
channel 4 - 8 hours ago
Covid-linked ‘black fungus’ infection spreading in India - channel 4

Covid-linked ‘black fungus’ infection spreading in India

India has begun lifting some Covid restrictions, despite struggling with a devastating second wave of the pandemic, as the number of new cases continues to fall.
channel 4 - 8 hours ago
What life is like for migrants who arrive on UK shores - channel 4

What life is like for migrants who arrive on UK shores

New figures show that more than 5,000 people have tried to cross the Channel so far this year, over 100 of them yesterday alone, picked up by Border Force officials as they attempted the dangerous journey to UK shores.
channel 4 - 8 hours ago
Bomb found in Italian official’s car close to Euro 2020 host stadium in Rome - rt

Bomb found in Italian official’s car close to Euro 2020 host stadium in Rome

Italian police have diffused a car bomb near the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, which was discovered ahead of the Euro 2020 football match between Italy and Switzerland. The city’s mayor said the device was found in an official’s car.
rt - 9 hours ago
WATCH: Squatters and left-wing radicals clash with German police in Berlin, 60 officers injured - rt

WATCH: Squatters and left-wing radicals clash with German police in Berlin, 60 officers injured

A routine fire inspection has led to massive riots in the German capital as left-wing radicals protested a fire inspector’s visit to a Berlin squat. At least 60 police officers have been injured in the violent confrontation.
rt - 9 hours ago
In Iran nuclear talks ‘time not on anyone’s side,’ France says as ‘significant disagreements’ remain - rt

In Iran nuclear talks ‘time not on anyone’s side,’ France says as ‘significant disagreements’ remain

Negotiators at talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna have still not come to an agreement on the trickiest issues, the French Foreign Ministry has said, warning that time to reach a deal is running out.
rt - 9 hours ago
Republicans Still Think Trump Is Going to Be President Again. Yup, Any Day Now. - vice

Republicans Still Think Trump Is Going to Be President Again. Yup, Any Day Now.

More than half of voters who cast a ballot for Donald Trump in 2020 believe that ongoing audits in Republican-controlled states will change the results of the 2020 election, according to a new poll.
vice - 11 hours ago
A Honolulu Cop Shot a Teen 8 Times. Now He’s Facing Murder Charges. - vice

A Honolulu Cop Shot a Teen 8 Times. Now He’s Facing Murder Charges.

Iremamber Sykap, 16, was shot and killed after a high speed chase with Honolulu police on April 5.
vice - 11 hours ago
Hospitals told to brace for double wave of Covid and child infections - channel 4

Hospitals told to brace for double wave of Covid and child infections

At the same time the third wave of severe Covid cases is likely to peak in hospitals, in early August, NHS leaders are also predicting a national wave of Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV infections.
channel 4 - 11 hours ago
Airbnb Reportedly Paid a Rape Victim $7 Million for Silence on Settlement - vice

Airbnb Reportedly Paid a Rape Victim $7 Million for Silence on Settlement

After the alleged assault, Airbnb got the woman a hotel, flew her home, and offered to cover health care and counseling.
vice - 12 hours ago
Covid pandemic likely exacerbated factors conducive to terrorism, UN committee report warns - rt

Covid pandemic likely exacerbated factors conducive to terrorism, UN committee report warns

A report from the UN Security Council (UNSC) Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) has warned that the Covid pandemic likely increased factors that contribute to terrorism, despite not finding clear signs of increased violence.
rt - 12 hours ago
New, ‘GREEN fungus’ case reported in India, adding to 3 other color types of infection developing in Covid patients - rt

New, ‘GREEN fungus’ case reported in India, adding to 3 other color types of infection developing in Covid patients

As thousands suffer from black, white and yellow fungus in India, doctors are now worried that another infection, dubbed “green,” has been added to the list of post-Covid complications for patients.
rt - 13 hours ago
Thai PM announces plan to boost Covid-crippled economy by reopening the country to visitors in 120 days - rt

Thai PM announces plan to boost Covid-crippled economy by reopening the country to visitors in 120 days

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced that Thailand will reopen to visitors within the next four months, as the nation seeks to find a way to lift an economy badly damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
rt - 14 hours ago
Covaxin’s Covid-19 shot does NOT contain cow serum, says New Delhi, rebuking congressman for ‘twisted’ viral tweet - rt

Covaxin’s Covid-19 shot does NOT contain cow serum, says New Delhi, rebuking congressman for ‘twisted’ viral tweet

The Indian ministry of health has shared a document responding to claims that India’s indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, contains the serum of calves, Hinduism’s most holy animal.
rt - 14 hours ago
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quartz
SoftBank led 25% of the UK’s fintech investment last year

SoftBank led 25% of the UK’s fintech investment last year

quartz - 1 year ago

SoftBank’s mega-investments made a splash in markets around the world last year, including in the UK’s burgeoning fintech sector: The Japanese company’s $100 billion Vision Fund led two deals that accounted for a quarter of the capital raised by the country’s financial startups.

SoftBank’s outsize transactions in tech companies have raised questions about valuations and whether some firms in its portfolio have too much money. The Vision Fund invested $800 million in Greensill and $440 million in OakNorth, two London-based business lenders, according to industry group Innovate Finance. Those investments made up 25% of the $4.9 billion raised by financial startups (Quartz member exclusive) in Britain last year.

SoftBank and its Vision Fund have faced a wave of media and investor scrutiny lately. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son is credited with a savvy bet in 2000 on Alibaba, which went on to become an e-commerce giant in China that’s now worth more than $600 billion. More recently, however, he and his colleagues have sunk billions of dollars into cash-burning startups, and it was reported late last year that the fund pushed portfolio companies to expand aggressively in spite of staggering losses.

There’s still a “positive halo effect” for a company associated with SoftBank, OakNorth CFO Cristina Alba Ochoa says. Vision Fund executives and its portfolio are rich with valuable connections to executives and business opportunities around the world. “In the last year they made introductions to banks and financial institutions outside the UK that we wanted to meet,” Ochoa said at an industry event hosted by Innovate Finance. “They really introduced us at the right level.”

SoftBank was contacted for this story but didn’t provide comment.

Greensill and OakNorth, unlike a number of unicorns that have emerged in recent years, say they are profitable. And profitability is becoming fashionable again after some privately funded companies, including some backed by SoftBank, got a shock from public markets. WeWork, one of SoftBank’s biggest investments, called off its IPO last year after Wall Street took a look at its financials. Last week Casper, a direct-to-consumer mattress company that didn’t receive any Vision Fund money, listed on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation that was around half of what venture capital investors had assigned it.

The gap in valuations highlights a weakness in private markets. They “are a very inefficient pricing mechanism, Mark Tluszcz, the CEO at Mangrove Capital Partners, told Quartz in October. One person defines the price. Not a lot of scrutiny.

Greensill got $800 million in May from SoftBank, and that single deal, comprised of one investor, determined the working-capital lender’s $3.5 billion valuation, according to PitchBook data. By contrast, Citigroup’s stock traded more than 250 million times on NYSE in December. (Greensill also raised $655 million of convertible debt financing from SoftBank in October.)

Another question is whether enterprises backed by the Vision Fund have more money than they know what to do with. SoftBank’s companies can be fortified with hundreds of millions of dollars in capital, which is meant to help them surge ahead of their competitors. If people can grow and they have room to grow, I think money can be very useful, Masayoshi Son said in SoftBank’s earnings call with analysts this week. Historically, “whatever the revolution was, always money was necessary, he said.

The strategy can backfire. Wag Labs, a dog walking startup, was reportedly seeking $75 million in funding and ended up with $300 million from Vision Fund. It sought to use the money to go international and add services like dog grooming, but the expansion failed (paywall) and it fell behind rivals, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Vision Fund has gotten attention for its misses, but executives say it has successes, too. Rajeev Misra, chief executive of SoftBank Investment Advisers, which oversees the Vision Fund, says it has about 50 winners in its portfolio, according to a Reuters report. The fund had invested in about 88 companies at the end of last year. Misra told a conference in Abu Dhabi that a dozen or more of its investments could seek IPOs during the next 18 months.

Greensill and OakNorth, meanwhile, say they can handle their tall stack of SoftBank cash. “Our goal is to continue to be profitable but at extremely high growth rates,” said Joe Hyland, chief marketing officer at working-capital lender Greensill. Having the money and having all this dry powder in reserves for international expansion, for acquisitions, is really important,” he said at the Innovate Finance event in London this week. “If youre focused on growth and focused on being a market leader, the more money you have the better.

Despite the benefitsplenty of capital and lots of connectionshas SoftBank’s investment become a distraction? The CFO at OakNorth, which lends to small- and medium-size companies, said it really depends on whether the money is being spent wisely and alters the company’s outlook. “Me, as a CFO, I havent changed my mindset,” she said.

With reporting assistance from Alison Griswold.

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