Tech company Garena raises US$550m, rebrands as Sea

Garena founder and CEO Forrest Li.
Garena founder and CEO Forrest Li. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore-based tech company Garena has been rebranded as Sea after securing US$550 million (S$772.4 million) in a new round of funding.

Sea is now believed to be valued at more than US$3 billion, making it South-east Asia's largest unicorn - a start-up that has grown to be privately valued above US$1 billion.

The bulk of the new funds raised will be invested in its e-commerce platform Shopee, with a focus on key markets such as Indonesia.

Investors in its latest funding round include GDP Venture, led by Martin Hartono, the son of Indonesia's richest man, and JG Summit Holdings, founded by Philippine billionaire John Gokongwei.

Other investors include Cathay Financial Holding Co, Hillhouse Capital, Farallon Capital Management and President International Development Corporation, an investment arm of Taiwanese food conglomerate Uni-President Enterprises Corp.

Earlier investors include SeaTown Holdings, a subsidiary of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, and Malaysian state investor Khazanah Nasional Bhd. The company is also planning a US$1 billion initial public offering, IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication, reported in January.

The company, founded by Chinese-born entrepreneur Forrest Li in 2009, started out in online gaming but now also generates revenue from digital content, e-payments and e-commerce.

Its e-commerce platform Shopee has more than doubled in size in the past nine months, the company said.

"Our new name draws inspiration from the acronym for our region, symbolizing our strong 'home court advantage'," said Mr Li.

"In addition, the sea connects every one of our markets, symbolizing our corporate motto of 'connecting the dots'. Finally, Sea is a humble, authentic word that evokes the pioneering spirit of exploration - a wonderful symbol of our corporate values," added Mr Li, who is chairman and group chief executive.

Sea also announced the appointment of three senior advisors, including former Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo.

Mr Yeo joined Sea as a senior non-business advisor in 2016.

The other two are former Indonesia Minister of Trade Mari Pangestu and Mr Pandu Sjahrir, the founder of Indonesian mining company Toba Bara Sejahtra, who joined Sea as chairman of its Indonesia operations this year.