IT and tech firm UST Global raises $250M from Temasek at a valuation of over $1B

UST Global is a multinational digital and tech services firm, but it is not your average unicorn.

The U.S.-based firm was founded in 2009, it has “significant” revenues and is profitable. But nonetheless, it has joined the $1 billion-valuation club courtesy of a $250 million investment from Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

The business may be over 15 years old, but its name is perhaps not well known in startup circles, but it has achieved the kind of scale that few unicorns have. It claims 17,000 staff across 35 offices worldwide while its client base includes more than 50 Fortune 500 companies covering industries like banking, media, telecom, healthcare, shipping and more. Its broad range of services include digital customer engagement, mapping, data analytics, AI, cloud consulting, product engineering, automation, and cybersecurity solutions, but its philosophy is “fewer clients, more attention”.

At that size and scale, why take investment at all?

“We feel we’re one of the leaders in the space we’re in, [but] this is an opportunity to catapult to another level,” UST Global chairman Paras Chandaria told TechCrunch. “We said: ‘Let’s raise some additional capital and have a war chest we can use to make a few acquisitions that can enhance our current capabilities and geographic strengthening.'”

Chandaria, whose family are the main shareholders of the business, said that UST Global also identified a cultural and values business with Temasek, which he believes will be able to open doors in Asia and beyond.

“We’ve traditionally been very strong in the U.S. and are growing in Europe, India and Southeast Asia. We felt it is the right time to expand in Southeast Asia and Temasek can definitely help us to do that. But as we got to know Temasek and its portfolio, we realized it isn’t about Southeast Asia — actually they’ll give us access beyond the geographies that we originally expected,” he added.

Beyond the business value from its new investor, Chandaria said that the deal — and the $1 billion-plus valuation — will give UST Global further validation.

“We could have continued just doing what we are doing [but it will] help us in the public eye to validate our business model and the initiatives that we are undertaking,” he said. “Our valuation is based on real revenue and cash generation [and] it strengthens our credentials and position. [Plus] whenever we look to acquire a business we have the possibility of co-investment from Temasek.”

“We think we can be multiples of the validation we’re at now if we’re able to act quickly and correctly,” he added.

Adding an investor like Temasek, which has close to $200 billion under management, does raise questions over a potential exit. Chandaria is quick to play that down, but he did admit that the company does have an interest in going public in the future.

“We want to be IPO ready [and] having a partner like Temasek helps us on that journey if we were going to take it [but] for the next couple of years looking to continue organic growth and acquisitions,” he told TechCrunch.

Areas for acquisition might include AI, machine learning, analysis, cloud, UI and UX, and cyber security among others, according to Chandaria, who said also that acquisition strategy may be driven by strengthening its business in geographies like Europe and Asia, too.

India’s PolicyBazaar raises $200M led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund

India’s PolicyBazaar, which runs a digital insurance business of the same name and a lending marketplace called, is the latest company to join SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund after it announced a new funding round of over $200 million.

The deal was led by the Vision Fund with participation from existing investors including InfoEdge, the company behind jobs platform The startup’s other investors count Softbank, Temasek, Tiger Global and True North, but an announcement from PolicyBazaar didn’t specifically mention if any of those names took place in this latest round.

This new round takes PolicyBazaar to nearly $350 million to date. The deal is another investment in India for the Vision Fund, which so far has backed OYO Rooms, Flipkart and Paytm parent One97 Communication among others.

PolicyBazaar was founded in 2008 initially as an information portal for learning about insurance and insurance programs. Today, the company operates its own digital insurance brand and a marketplace that aggregates and selects deal from across the industry.

Across both services, PolicyBazaar claims to process 100 million visitors in website traffic per year with a transaction volume that’s approaching 300,000 per month. More broadly, the company estimates that is used to purchase over 20 percent of life insurance coverage in India and seven percent of the country’s retail health coverage.

Going forward, PolicyBazaar is targeting 10 million transacting customers by 2020, which it believes it can reach by growing at a compound annual growth rate of 80 percent.

Over the last decade, PolicyBazaar has become synonymous with online insurance shopping in India. We believe that the Indian insurance market continues to remain massively under-developed and PolicyBazaar, supported by SoftBank’s capital and ecosystem, is uniquely positioned to dramatically increase the adoption of insurance products in the country,” Munish Varma, partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement.

PolicyBazaar’s closest ideological rival is Acko, but the two companies are quite contrasted.

While PolicyBazaar is a decade old, Acko is very much a newcomer which has raised $42 million since its launch some 18 months ago. Most recently, Acko added Amazon after the U.S. retail giant led a $12 million investment that was announced last month. In addition, Acko founder Varun Dua is a co-founder of Coverfox, an online insurance policy aggregator that also rivals

Alibaba’s Ant Financial fintech affiliate raises $14 billion to continue its global expansion

Ant Financial, the financial services affiliate connected to Alibaba which operates the Alipay mobile payment service, has confirmed that it has closed a Series C funding round that totals an enormous $14 billion.

The rumors have been flying about this huge financing deal for the past month or so, with multiple publications reporting that Ant — which has been strongly linked with an IPO — was in the market to raise at least $9 billion at a valuation of upwards of $100 billion. That turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg here.

The money comes via a tranche of U.S. dollar financing and Chinese RMB from local investors. Those names include Singapore-based sovereign funds GIC and Temasek, Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Warburg Pincus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Silver Lake and General Atlantic.

Ant said that the money will go towards extending its global expansion (and deepening its presence in non-China markets it has already entered), developing technology and hiring.

“We are pleased to welcome these investors as partners, who share our vision and mission, to embark on our journey to further promote inclusive finance globally and bring equal opportunities to the world. We are proud of, and inspired by, the transformation we have affected in the lives of ordinary people and small businesses over the past 14 years,” Ant Financial CEO and executive chairman Eric Jing said in a statement.

Alibaba itself doesn’t invest in Ant, which it span off shortly before its mega-IPO in the U.S. in 2014, but the company did recently take up an option to own 33 percent of Ant’s shares.

Ant has long been tipped to go public. Back in 2016 when it raised a then blockbuster $4.5 billionlittle did we know it would pull in many multiples more — the company has been reportedly considering a public listing, but it instead opted to raise new capital at a valuation of $60 billion.

It looks like the same again, but with higher stakes. This new Series C round pushes that valuation up to $100 billion, according to Bloomberg. (Ant didn’t comment on its valuation.) So what has Ant done over the past two years to justify that jump?

It has long been a key fintech company in China, where it claims to serve offer 500 million consumers and offers Alipay, digital banking and investment services, but it has begun to replicate that business overseas in recent years. In particular, it has made investments and set up joint-ventures and new businesses in a slew of Asian countries that include India, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The company was, however, unsuccessful in its effort to buy MoneyGram after the U.S. government blocked the $1.2 billion deal.

On the business-side, Ant is said to have posted a $1.4 billion profit over the last year, suggesting it is more than ready to make the leap to being a public firm.

Despite that U.S. deal setback, Ant said today that its global footprint extends to 870 million consumers. I’d take that with a pinch of salt at this point since its business outside of China is in its early stages, but there seems little doubt that it is on the road to replicating its scale in its homeland in many parts of Asia. Raising this huge round only solidifies those plans by providing the kind of capital infusion that tops most of the world’s IPOs in one fell swoop.

PayPal and Singapore’s Temasek invest $125M in Indian payment startup Pine Labs

Fresh from agreeing its largest acquisition to date with a deal to buy European payment firm iZettle for $2.2 billion, PayPal is on the investment hunt once again after it backed India’s Pine Labs with a $125 million round.

The financing jointly comes from PayPal and Temasek, the sovereign investment fund from the Singaporean government with over $200 billion in assets. Both will take undisclosed “minority shares” in Pine Labs. Sequoia made a seed investment in 2009 and it remains the startup’s largest-single investor, the VC firm said.

The new deal takes New Delhi-based Pine Labs to $208 million raised from investors to date. It previously closed an $82 million investment from PE funds Actis and Altimeter Capital in March of this year at a reported valuation of $900 million. Recent reports speculated on the Temasek investment (but not PayPal) which would give Pine Labs a valuation of over $1 billion, thus vaulting it into the global ‘unicorn’ club. A spokesperson declined to give a confirmed valuation for the latest deal.

Like iZettle, Pine Labs offers a point-of-sale device that covers debit and credit cards, as well as new and increasingly popular digital payment methods that include mobile wallets, and services that support Indian government project UPI. Rather than other traditional POS devices that are common across India, Pine Labs’ is smart and cloud-based.

While that product gives it distribution, the company offers a suite of services for retailers and SMEs which include customer analytics, a transaction dashboard, and loan services. The company’s notable public-facing clients include retailer Croma, Nike, McDonald’s, Apple, KFC, Sony and Samsung.

Since that last investment in March, there’s been a change at the top. Pine Labs appointed board member Vicky Bindra, a former executive with Visa, MasterCard and GE Capital, as its CEO in April to go after international expansion and new services for consumers and banks. That’s also how this new capital will be spent, the company confirmed in an announcement.

In a statement, Bindra said Pine Lab’s annualized transaction volume is $15 billion through a base of around 300,000 payment points. He added that the business is “on track to originate over $1 billion USD of instant loans at point-of-sale terminals for card issuers and partner NBFCs this fiscal year.”

“We’re teaming up with Temasekand PayPal at a time when the Indian payments market is at an inflexion point. We are a leader in the offline payments space, a position that is critical in enabling the ecosystem of online payment products. The investments will help us move a step closer to our vision for building a world-class merchant-centric payments ecosystem,” Pine Labs founder Lokvir Kapoor added via a statement.