SPACs are targeting Southeast Asia’s start-ups and investors are taking note

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Gojek drivers wearing protective masks wait for a customer along a road in Jakarta, Indonesia on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Dimas Ardian | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Southeast Asia’s late-stage start-ups are attracting growing interest from blank-check companies that want to take them public, a venture investor told CNBC.

More than 40 SPACs — or special purpose acquisition companies — are targeting the region, according to Vinnie Lauria, managing partner at early-stage venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures.

“SPACs have really put ASEAN on the map,” Lauria said Thursday on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia,” referring to Southeast Asia’s economic bloc comprising 10 member states. Other late-stage investors, including private equity players, are taking note and writing large checks in the region, he said.

“The next decade is going to be a very competitive decade for CEOs. You are going to have to scale from 5 to 5,000 much quicker, to be more competitive, (and for) more money,” Lauria said.

SPACs are shell companies set up to raise money through an initial public offering, with the sole purpose of merging with or acquiring an existing private company and taking it public.

Fundraising in SEA

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Golden Gate said in a report released Thursday that by 2030, the number of IPOs in Southeast Asia will cross 300 as more local start-ups seek to list in domestic public markets. The venture firm expects a rise in medical technology start-ups, as well as for social commerce to dominate online transactions.

As the coronavirus pandemic pushed many physical business transactions online, Lauria pointed out that tech firms in areas such as food delivery, telemedicine, e-commerce and financial technology have seen strong growth. That trend is expected to continue in the near future.

Southeast Asia is home to some 400 million internet users and 10% of them went online for the first time in 2020. The internet economy in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — the largest economies in the region — is predicted to cross $300 billion by 2025, according to a report last year.

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