Monday, December 28, 2015

Capital Drought Will Spark Unicorn M&A Orgy

The internet has some odd offerings when you ask it for "Unicorn orgy".
From Reuters BreakingViews:
A capital drought may stimulate an orgy among unicorns. Plentiful money has detached valuations on many hot private tech firms from reality. There are 144 of these private companies worth $1 billion or more according to CB Insights. Curiously, about a third are valued at $1 billion on the dot. As capital becomes more expensive in 2016, selling to rivals or mating with other unicorns will become appealing.

Few of these young companies are cash-flow positive, so most will need capital infusions to survive. That money may be drying up. Fidelity Investments recently marked down the value of its Snapchat and Zenefits holdings, and BlackRock slashed the value of its Dropbox stake. If massive asset managers pull back, private firms will be dependent on tinier venture capital outfits, which may be more demanding in their terms. Even hardened angel investors are becoming skeptical. Marc Benioff,’s founder, says he will no longer invest in unicorns because they have “manipulated private markets to obtain these values.”

Going public is an option. American tech firms’ proceeds from initial stock sales so far this year are $6.1 billion – a fifth the amount they raised last year, according to Thomson Reuters data. Global trends are similar.

Claims that remaining private allow founders to retain a long-term focus look suspect. Super-powered voting stock allows insiders to treat public companies as their fiefdoms. But the stretched private valuations make it harder for unicorns to go public. Insiders do not want the ignominy of a so-called down round. Floating at a reduced price also creates the impression something has gone wrong. That can make it difficult to lure customers and talented engineers....MORE