Singapore’s Grab Holdings Looking to Go Public Through SPAC Merger

Other top stories from ASEAN this week include survey findings that Philippines’ SMBs score the lowest in the region for WFH preparedness; Indonesia to regulate domestic e-commerce market; and Brazilian government shuns Huawei for private network.

Singapore’s Grab Holdings Looking to Go Public Through SPAC Merger

Singapore-based ride-hailing startup Grab Holdings is reportedly in talks to go public through a merger with a "blank check" company that could value the company at as much as $40 billion.

The company is discussing a deal with a special-purpose acquisition company affiliated with Altimeter Capital Management LP that would value it at $35 billion to $40 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Grab Holdings was founded in 2012 and has about 6,000 employees. Headquartered in Queenstown, Singapore, the company delivers grocery and other items and provides digital financial services to merchants.

As part of the deal, Grab would raise between $3 billion and $4 billion in a so-called PIPE, a funding round that typically accompanies a SPAC merger. That amount could still change, however, as Grab and Altimeter will start meeting with mutual funds and other potential investors soon.

The parties could announce the deal in the next few weeks, though the talks could still fall apart and Grab could revert to an earlier plan to stage a traditional IPO on a U.S. Exchange this year.

Philippines’ SMBs Score Lowest in APAC for Work-from-Home Preparedness

SMB technology insights revealed in an IDC survey commissioned by ASUS revealed that only 60% of Philippine businesses believed they were ready for the work-from-home (WFH) requirement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic: the lowest across the Asia-Pacific markets sampled.

The IDC Asia/Pacific Laptops and Workspace Trends Survey 2020 was conducted in mid-2020 in 10 countries across Asia-Pacific- including the Philippines. The survey found that while 82% of employers stated they believed they already offered a WFH policy, only 66% of employees agreed that such a policy was in existence; and only 59% of business owners are actively supporting WFH.

Asia-Pacific SMBs Not Ready for Long-Term Remote Working Arrangements

At the APAC level, the survey revealed that businesses are not attuned to the “work-anywhere” trend brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, only 28% of business owners in Asia-Pacific expect employees to continue working remotely post COVID-19, with almost 40% anticipating a return to office.

Key Filipino Findings

In the Philippines in particular, the survey found that prior to the pandemic, the market had a strong office-based culture.

With COVID-19, WFH is likely to leave a deeper impact in the Philippines in comparison to other markets, due to the need and desire to continue with remote working. However, according to Business World, infrastructure-related challenges unique to the Philippines, such as “poorer-than-APAC-average-connectivity”, is a key obstacle.

Indonesia to Regulate Domestic E-Commerce Market

Indonesia will pass a new regulation that lays out rules for e-commerce, in a bid to promote fair and healthy competition in the domestic market.

Among the rules set to be rolled out next month is the requirement for e-commerce players to declare if they carry out cross-border trade, Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi told The Straits Times. Online platforms selling foreign goods in Indonesia will be subject to the same obligations applied to offline traders offering locally made products, Lutfi added.

"The regulation seeks to create a level playing field in the domestic market[...] If the offline traders must have distribution permits, online merchants will need to do the same thing,” he explained.

Business practices in electronic marketplaces that the authorities deem "unfair" and “harmful” to local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises came into the media spotlight after President Joko Widodo made a controversial suggestion to "hate foreign goods" and "love local products" during the Trade Ministry's annual work meeting last week.

Brazilian Government Shuns Huawei for Private Network

During a public hearing of a Congress working group on 5G last Tuesday, Brazilian communications minister Fabio Faria said Huawei will not be among the suppliers of the private communications network to be used by the government.

During the discussion surrounding the potential ban of the Chinese supplier for that specific project, Faria said Huawei is not apt to participate in the government's network, to be set up by the winners of the upcoming 5G auction. According to the minister, the firm does not meet the requirements recently set out by the Brazilian telecommunications agency Anatel (ZD Net).

According to the minister, Jair Bolsonaro's government will not prevent any country or organization from doing business in Brazil, but it can define the criteria for its own network; such as requiring that its suppliers follow corporate governance rules compatible to what is in place in companies that are publicly listed in Brazil.

Faria added that during the government's recent global tour to meet the governments and suppliers at countries where the market leaders for 5G equipment are based, it became apparent that Huawei was not interested in supplying equipment to the government's own network.The minister also stressed that it would be "impossible to detect" if backdoors or other technologies that could facilitate espionage were integrated to the equipment.

Brazil's 5G auction is set to take place in June. According to Anatel, the initial cost to telcos to use the 3,5 GHz frequency bands is estimated to reach 35 billion reais ($6.2 billion USD). Companies will also need to invest an additional 80 billion reais ($14 billion USD) on 5G through the next two decades.

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