Fresh from a name change, Sea’s $1bn IPO nears reality

24 May 2017

Image: icealien/Shutterstock

Formerly known as Garena, Sea’s rumoured $1bn IPO comes hot on the heels of a major funding round earlier this month.

Regarded as one of the most valuable start-ups in Asia, Sea is having a busy May.

At the start of the month, it rebranded from Garena, taking inspiration from its south-east Asian market (S-e-a) ahead of a rumoured IPO.

First, though, was the closure of a $550m round that focused on its activities in Indonesia, with the Singapore-based company one of a growing number of major players in the country’s competitive, and lucrative, market.

Sea was originally an online gaming portal, founded in 2009, and has since spread its wings to become a rounder service provider, with mobile shopping placing it in direct competition with the likes of Alibaba.

Last year, Alibaba bought Lazada for $1bn in a bid to better compete with major players in Indonesia, such as MatahariMall and Tokopedia, according to TechCrunch.

Now, Sea enjoys backers including Tencent, GDP Venture and JG Summit Holdings, with the latter two backed by some of the richest people in Indonesia and the Philippines.

According to Bloomberg, Sea filed for a potential IPO in the US, possibly listing as soon as early 2018, though a date has yet to be confirmed.

Interestingly, the report hints at a blow for Singaporean attempts to build a regional hub for fast-growing start-ups, with the Asian country in competition with US and EU activities in the areas of fintech and blockchain.

These views are echoed by Hesus Inoma, founder of WeSavvy and one of the people trying to get an insurtech federation off the ground in Ireland.

Speaking to last month, Inoma said Singapore’s activity around fintech is well known in the industry, with extensive structures in place to encourage start-ups to be created, and to stay.

Bloomberg said: “Any overseas listing of Sea would be a blow for Singapore, which has been trying to woo local start-ups to sell shares at home as it seeks to build a regional hub for fast-growing, innovative companies.”

“Singapore Exchange Ltd is nearing a deal with the country’s technology regulator to develop a system for pairing start-ups with investors, in a move to encourage such listings,” it said, citing sources.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic