Thailand’s PACE sells stake in Dean & Deluca Japan for US$10 million

Dean & Deluca

Dean & Deluca

19/3/2019 – PACE Development Corporation, a listed property developer in Thailand has sold its 50 percent stake in the Japan unit of gourmet food brand Dean & DeLuca to Welcome Co Ltd for US$10 million.

According to the disclosure made by PACE to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Tokyo-based Welcome will now own 100 percent of Dean & DeLuca Cafe Japan post-transaction.

PACE, which reported a loss of 5.15 million baht (about US$162.5 million) last year, said that it would use the proceeds to repay short-term loans and meet working capital requirements.

The property developer had previously acquired the gourmet food brand and its assets in the United States and international markets in 2014, paying US$140 million for it as it expects to list the brand in 2018.

Instead, Dean & DeLuca was reported to have significantly downsized its presence in the United States in 2017, on top of facing multiple lawsuits from irate suppliers over pending payments.

PACE reported a total revenue of 8.8 billion baht (about US$277.6 million) and a net loss of 5.15 billion baht (about US$162.5 million) in 2018. The sharp fall in its performance was attributed to headwinds in its property business and the gourmet food and drink segment.

While most of the US delicatessens have been closed, the developer has adapted the concept to a cafe model, rolling out stores in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Middle East.

Last October, the company announced a partnership with travel retail specialist Lagardere to open up to 150 Dean & DeLuca stores in airport terminals internationally over the next five years, starting in Hong Kong.

Insurtech startup Saphron completes US$1 million in seed funding from Sage Venture, Talino Labs

Insurance technology

Saphron

15/3/2019 – Saphron, an insurance technology startup based in the Philippines announced that it has raised S$1.35 million (about US$1 million) in seed funding.

The investment was made by fintech-focused venture capital firm Sage Venture and Talino Labs, a venture lab that supports startups engaged in digital transformation.

According to a report by global reinsurance firm Swiss Re, most families in Southeast Asia bear 35 to 75 percent of their total medical expenses (with the exception of Brunei at 6 percent and Thailand at 12 percent).

This is significantly higher in comparison to families in Japan, the United Kingdom, or the United States, which bear only 11 to 15 percent of their total medical expenses.

“There is a serious need to make insurance radically accessible around the region by helping address the risks that set back millions of vulnerable families and drive them further into debt,” said Saphron founder and chief technology officer Francisco Reyes Jr.

Besides, Saphron mentioned that Southeast Asia also faces major financial gaps with insurance penetration at just 3.4 percent of GDP, which is lower than the global average of 6.3 percent.

Reyes said many Filipinos are still without protection and access to financial assistance when faced with accidents, hospitalization, climate-driven calamities, diseases, and other emergencies.

“Filipinos often think that securing protection is a sizable expense, but in reality it costs more to be unprotected when emergencies occur. When a member of the family is in an emergency, it puts a strain on the entire family’s finances. In fact, a single episode alone is often enough to put households in debt for long periods,” he explained.

The insurance startup thus aims to make financial inclusion a reality in Southeast Asia by creating an enterprise solution for its clients, which includes financial providers.

“We want to provide a digital experience for our clients’ users like searching for a suitable cover, facilitating payments, and simplifying the claims process,” said Reyes.

Saphron plans to use the seed funding to optimize its platform’s artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics for underwriting and customer service.

The startup will also feature a multi-platform payment gateway that can accept payments from mobile payment platforms, which is currently already being practiced in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

It also plans to integrate blockchain-based know your customer (KYC) system that uses biometric identity verification for secure payment processing.

Commenting on the investment, Sage and Talino Labs said in a joint statement that their investment in Saphron further underlines their commitment to address the large protection and financial gap.

“There is a lot of growth potential in Southeast Asia, but for industries to leapfrog and become even more relevant to today’s consumers, it’s important to combine the latest technology with in-depth industry expertise,” said Micaela Beltran, the director of Talino Labs Ventures.

Saphron counts Pioneer Group, an established commercial insurance provider in the Philippines as its first client. The firm caters to class A to D Filipinos and provides coverage for migrant workers and the low-income sector in the country.