Temasek eyes fintech firms, aspiring unicorns in region

Temasek is also monitoring the nascent education and healthcare sectors.
Temasek is also monitoring the nascent education and healthcare sectors.PHOTO: REUTERS

Financial technology firms as well as the array of aspiring unicorns in South-east Asia are two areas that Temasek is eyeing for future investment opportunities.

Temasek is also monitoring the nascent education and healthcare sectors, said Mr Rohit Sipahimalani, joint head of its portfolio strategy and risk group.

While its investments in Internet firms in South-east Asia remain smaller than those for other regions, he expects this to rise "significantly" in the next five years, but did not commit to a number of deals.

His comments came as the e-Conomy report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company revealed yesterday that about two-thirds of funding into the Internet economy of South-east Asia went to unicorn companies in the past four years. These are larger start-ups, valued at over US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion).

There are, however, nearly 70 aspiring unicorns in South-east Asia valued between US$100 million and US$1 billion - and Temasek is "very focused on this segment", said Mr Sipahimalani.

Aspiring unicorns need more late-stage financing, through investments ranging from US$25 million to US$100 million and above, to scale up. There is still less competition in this area, he noted.

He told The Straits Times that the segment is of interest, given that there are companies with proven business models but are not yet proven winners in their segments.

"That's where (the investor) is coming in at a reasonable valuation, where there is a long runway for growth," he said. "Trying and finding the winners... is something we're very focused on."

Temasek has invested in at least three companies in this segment over the last 12 months: fashion start-up Zilingo, global sports media property One Championship and e-commerce firm Sociolla.

Meanwhile, Mr Sipahimalani expects Temasek's fintech investments to increase in the future, on the back of strong growth.

South-east Asia's fintech sector saw inflows of US$1.7 billion in funding from last year to the first half of this year - a sixfold increase from 2017, according to the report. This excludes investments by ride-hailing platforms and e-commerce players offering financial services.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2019, with the headline 'Temasek eyes fintech firms, aspiring unicorns in region'. Subscribe