Industry News & Trends Recap: Apr Week 1

Industry News & Trends Recap: Apr Week 1

Industry News & Trends Recap Apr Week 1

This week’s summary spotlights Singapore, which emerged as the top destination for startup funding in Southeast Asia, especially in the deep-tech sector. Meanwhile, in the PE VC space, Singaporean Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling has made waves by entering the venture capital arena as a partner of Swaen Schooling Capital.

Table of contents

  1. Finance Industry News
  2. Investment, PE & VC News
  3. Legal Industry News
  4. Healthcare & Life Sciences News
  5. Luxury & Retail News
  6. Tech & AI News


Finance Sector News

banking and financial services news


Standard Chartered Appoints New Regional Heads in Investment Banking Overhaul

Standard Chartered is implementing a significant restructuring within its corporate and investment bank division, appointing several key executives to lead various regional hubs globally. The reshuffle affects key regions such as the US, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Singapore and involves:

  • Patrick Lee: To lead Singapore and ASEAN;
  • Zarin Daruwala: To lead India and South Asia;
  • Rola Abu Manneh: To lead the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Middle East and Pakistan;
  • Steve Cranwell: To lead the US, Europe and the Americas;
  • Kariuki Ngari: To lead Kenya and Africa;
  • Torry Berntsen: To lead the corporate and investment banking business (CIB) in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa as the executive vice-chairman.

These changes aim to streamline operations and reduce complexity within the business. It follows recent leadership appointments at the division’s helm.

Read the full article about Standard Chartered’s leadership reshuffle.



VP Bank Names New Singapore and Hong Kong Wealth Management Heads

VP Bank’s head of Hong Kong for VP Wealth Management, Reto Marx, will transition to chief risk officer Asia in Singapore and the head of product and solutions for Asia (ad interim). In this newly created role, he will oversee risk management, governance, the VP’s operational risk, legal and compliance matters for the bank’s operations in Asia. He is succeeded by Will Wang, who will also assume the role of chief representative of VP Bank AG Hong Kong Representative Office. Wang will transition from his role as alternative solutions head but retains his duties as the head of strategic partnerships for Asia.



Singapore Standard Chartered Private Bank Team Lead Joins UBP

Ankur Sahni, formerly a team leader at Standard Chartered Private Bank in Singapore, has transitioned to a similar role at Union Bancaire Privée (UBP). He will report to Eric Morin, the regional head of Southeast Asia (SEA). UBP, despite a slight decline in global assets under management, saw a significant 64% rise in net profits last year.



Binance Gets its First Board of Directors

Binance Holdings Ltd. establishes its inaugural board of directors, a significant milestone reflecting its commitment to governance and compliance. The team comprises internal members and experts from diverse industries who serve as external advisors:

  • Binance CEO;
  • Internal executives Heina Chen, Jinkai He, and Lilai Wang;
  • Gabriel Abed, former Ambassador of Barbados to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait;
  • Entrepreneur Arnaud Ventura, whose track record includes companies like PlaNet Finance;
  • Xin Wang, CEO at Bayview Acquisition Corp.

The board aims to steer the exchange through operational and regulatory challenges.

Read the full article about Binance’s new board members.



MAS-Backed DigiFT Appoints Hong Kong CEO and MD

DigiFT, backed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), is expanding its presence in Hong Kong with new leadership appointments and participation in the Cyberport Incubation Programme. Kevin Loo has been appointed CEO, and Shen Hao as Managing Director and Chief Development Officer to spearhead the company’s growth strategy. The firm specialises in services for on-chain and real-world assets and recently obtained Recognised Market Operator (RMO) and Capital Markets Services (CMS) licenses from MAS. This distinguishes it as the first licensed exchange with an automatic market-making mechanism.


Investment, PE & VC News

investment news for singapore and apac markets


Singapore Leads Southeast Asia in Startup Investment; Deep Tech Sector Thrives

Despite a decline in funding, Singapore remained the leading startup investment destination in SEA in 2023, with its startups accounting for a significant majority of equity deals in the region. The report highlighted Singapore’s flourishing deep-tech ecosystem, showing a recovery in deal volume from the previous year despite a decrease in deal value. Investors are increasingly focusing on early-stage funding, with Singaporean startups attracting interest for their strong fundamentals, innovative solutions, and growth potential despite experiencing a funding crunch.

Read the full article about Singapore’s investment scene.

Read the full article about Singapore’s investment space for deep-tech.



Moves: Temasek, Schooling, DigiFT and Partners Group

Temasek: Temasek, Singapore’s investment firm appointed two new directors: Chong Meng Tan and Geoffrey Wong. Tan was the former CEO of PSA International, and Wong previously headed emerging markets and Asia-Pacific (APAC) equities at UBS Global Asset Management. Tan also brings diverse experience from serving at the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, Shell Group, the Ministry of National Development, JTC Corporation and the National University Health System. Meanwhile, Wong’s experience lies in investment management, particularly in emerging markets. Tan has joined the board, and Wong will join on May 10.

Schooling: Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, has retired from swimming to pursue venture capital investing. He has started the Swaen Schooling Capital alongside investment banker Cliff Go and serial entrepreneur Ben Ling. Established in 2022, the firm targets early-stage investments in impact and sustainability, sports and wellness, and tech, with potential for in-house businesses or strategic partnerships. This aligns with the broader trend of investor interest in impact and sustainability in SEA. While no investments have been announced, Schooling previously invested in a mental health startup, Huddleverse.

Partners Group: Private Markets firm Partners Group named Michael Marquardt its partner and head of business services. The position is based in Singapore, and the appointment aims to enhance the firm’s operations and service provider model. Marquardt has over 30 years of experience and was formerly the CEO for Asia at IQ-EQ in Singapore and COO for APAC at Blackrock.

KKR: KKR & Co. appointed Kate Richdale to lead institutional capital efforts and oversee a new initiative targeting corporate and family wealth in APAC for capital and dealmaking. Richdale’s experience includes serving as the firm’s APAC chief operating officer and working at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. She will focus on capital-raising priorities and expanding co-investments with wealthy entrepreneurs and families in the region from her base in Hong Kong.

Read the full article about Temasek’s new board members.

Read the full article about Schooling’s entrance into VC.

Read the full article about Kate Richdale’s appointment.

Read the full article about Partners Group’s new hire.



Dubai Royal Reaffirms Plans on US$500m Hong Kong Family Office

Dubai’s royal nephew Sheikh Ali Al Maktoum reaffirms commitment to opening a US$500 million family office in Hong Kong after postponing its inauguration ceremony. The ceremony is now scheduled for the end of May due to unexpected private matters, with the Sheikh emphasising his interest in development opportunities in China, Hong Kong, and Asia. Sheikh Ali Al Maktoum’s investment plan attracts interest amid Hong Kong’s push to become a wealth management hub, with government incentives for family office businesses. It was understood that the private office signed a memorandum last December to initiate projects that tap into green technologies and green finance.

Read the full article about Sheikh’s family office.

Read the full paid article about Sheikh’s family office in Hong Kong.



GGV Capital Asia Rebrands and Seeks to APAC Expansion

Granite Global Ventures Capital’s Asia unit, now rebranded as Granite Asia, aims to become “Asia’s leading multi-asset investment platform” under the leadership of Jenny Lee and Jixun Foo. The firm plans to expand beyond its existing portfolio in SEA, China, and India into new asset classes and markets in APAC, particularly Japan and Australia. The move follows the split between GGV’s US and Asia operations in 2023 amidst rising geopolitical tensions.

Read the full article about Granite Asia’s plans.



Royalty-Backed AM Firm Optimistic About China’s Private Equity Market

LGT Group, the largest private banking and asset management group owned by a royal family globally, sees the ongoing appeal in private equity investments among high-net-worth (HNW) clients, particularly in the Chinese market. The group emphasised investment opportunities in China, particularly the energy and electric mobility sectors. It expressed intentions to incorporate sustainability and ESG factors into its investment decisions, especially in the private equity market, where returns have outperformed public markets despite recent challenges. Despite the economic slowdown and market turbulence, LGT remains optimistic about the future of private equity in China and believes that the market has bottomed out and is poised for recovery in the coming years.

Read the full article about LGT Group’s analysis of China.


Legal News

legal news


Moves in Singapore: CRS Adds Tax Team, Drew Appoints India-Focused Disputes Director

CRS: Private client specialist Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS) has expanded its international tax capabilities in Asia by incorporating a four-lawyer tax team from US firm Butler Snow. The team is led by partners Kurt Rademacher and Ivan Lu and will be based in its recently opened Singapore office. These US-qualified lawyers will offer counsel on US legal matters and relevant tax considerations to Asia-Pacific (APAC) clients with business or personal ties to the US. This addition follows the recent arrival of international arbitration and investigations partner Peter Brabant.

Drew & Napier: Drew & Napier enhanced its India-focused disputes practice by appointing international arbitration specialist Abhinav Bhushan as a director in Singapore. Bhushan joins Mahesh Rai’s cross-border arbitration and litigation team. Previously with 39 Essex Chambers and the ICC International Court of Arbitration, he brings rich experience in representing clients in international arbitration across various sectors and regions. He enhances Drew’s regional offering alongside recent additions to its Drew Network Asia.

Read the full article about CRS’ four-lawyer team.

Read the full article about Drew & Napier’s Disputes Director.



Moves in Hong Kong: GPS’ Co-Founder Leaves, Corporate Expert Rejoins Wilkinson

GPS: International arbitration & litigation expert Philip Georgiou departed from Hong Kong law firm Georgiou Payne Stewien, where he was a co-founder. Leaving alongside Georgiou are GPS Legal partners Kareena Teh and Randall Arthur. Teh and Arthur join Georgious’s newly-established firm, Georgiou Partnership, as Special Counsel and Partner. The firm will focus on dispute resolution, compliance, investigations, and specialist practices like construction, insolvency, and asset recovery. GPS Legal, which will be renamed after their departure, is now led by three remaining partners: Sonny Payne, Brett Stewien, and John Koh.

Wilkinson: Hulka Lo returns to Wilkinson & Grist as a partner, bringing experience from her tenure at Mayer Brown and US firm Paul Hastings. Lo has a corporate and commercial background spanning mergers and acquisitions (M&A), minority investments, corporate finance, and banking, and particularly in real estate. Her addition brings Wilkinson & Grist’s team to 36 lawyers, including 17 partners in its Hong Kong office.

Read the full article about Wilkinson’s Corporate Partner.

Read the full article about Philip Georgiou’s new firm.



Moves in China: East IP and SIPS Merges and Adds IP Experts, Hylands Adds Two Partners

East IP: Beijing East IP merges with Hong Kong-based SIPS and welcomes a 36-member intellectual property (IP) team from Zhong Lun Law Firm. SIPS, founded by former Baker McKenzie partner Joe Simone, offers trademark application, investigation and application services across China and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Zhong Lun team, helmed by partner Huang Jingwen, focuses on trademark applications and IP litigation. With these additions, East IP now has over 150 professionals providing trademark, enforcement, and litigation services across multiple locations in China and Hong Kong.

Hylands: Hylands Law Firm welcomed Ma Tao and Qin Wen as partners in its Beijing office. Ma, who previously worked at King & Capital Law Firm, specialises in commercial dispute resolution, compliance, and government regulation. Meanwhile, Qin comes from Rui Bai Law Firm and specialises in dispute resolution, IP, and corporate business. Their addition marks Hylands’ first partner-level hires of the year.

Read the full article about Beijing East IP’s new IP team.

Read the full article about Hyland’s two new partners.



Consolidations: US Firm Weil Exits Beijing and Considers Shanghai Closure

US law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges is exiting the Chinese market. Having closed its Beijing office on December 31st, the firm is currently discussing the closure of its Shanghai office and views to consolidate operations in Hong Kong. The move comes amidst a trend of US and international law firms scaling back their presence in China due to various factors. These include the growing pressure on foreign firms alongside economic and geopolitical conditions, which have led to closures and layoffs across the country.

Read the full article about the consolidation of Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ operations.


Healthcare & Life Sciences News

life sciences industry developments


AstraZeneca Pursues Separate US and China Supply Chains; Others Eye Singapore and Korea Investments

AstraZeneca is restructuring its pharmaceutical supply chains to manufacture drugs independently for the US and China markets due to geopolitical tensions. CEO Pascal Soriot highlighted the company’s plans during events in China, which included its development of a $300 million cell therapy facility in the US and substantial investments in China. The move aims to strengthen global manufacturing capabilities and mitigate supply disruptions amid escalating tensions between major powers. Few biopharma firms have explicitly outlined such plans. However, there are indications that some are strategising to establish autonomous supply chains, including increasing investment activity in Singapore and South Korea.

Read the full article about AstraZeneca and pharma companies’ investment plans.



Former CR Sanjiu President Nominated as New GM of Chinese Pharma Giant Sinopharm

The former President of CR Sanjiu, Bingxiang Zhao, has been nominated as the new General Manager of Sinopharm, a Chinese pharma giant. Zhao’s appointment comes on the same day as the public announcement of his departure from CR Sanjiu, a large state-controlled pharmaceutical listed company with several national brands. Zhao’s career history unveils his extensive experience in pharmaceutical sales, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) business, and corporate transformation. Sinopharm’s modern TCM division stands out as one of its four major industrial sectors. Zhao’s appointment suggests potential synergy through driving innovative advancements and investments in this field. As early as 2020, During Sinopharm’s takeover of Taiji Group in 2020, it promised to resolve the issue of horizontal competition within five years. With this five-year deadline approaching, the spotlight also shines on whether consolidation of operations will occur, which may see the emergence of a new industry giant in the TCM field.

Read the full Chinese article about Sinopharm’s new appointment.



Sanofi Inks Pacts for CNS Drugs and Vaccines Distribution in India and Korea

Sanofi has entered into distribution agreements with Indian companies Cipla and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and South Korea’s SK Bioscience to market its central nervous system drugs and vaccines across South and East Asia. Cipla will market six CNS medicines, including Frisium, in India. Dr Reddy’s will distribute vaccines in India, and SK Bioscience will sell vaccines in South Korea. This strategy echoes similar moves by other pharmaceutical giants like Novartis and GSK, who have also engaged in distribution partnerships to expand their market reach in various regions.

Read the full article on Sanofi’s distribution agreements.



Nucleic Acid Track Sees a Surge in BD Activities in 2024 Q1

Q1 of 2024 reflected growing interest in nucleic acid drugs, with an unprecedented surge in activity observed. Collaborations and licensing deals totalled nearly US$10 billion, and big players like Ribo & Boehringer Ingelheim, CirCode & BMS, and Argo Biopharma and Novartist scored major partnerships and acquisitions. Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk acquired nucleic acid drug development company Cardior, signalling a strategic move into nucleic acid therapeutics, particularly in cardiovascular treatment pipelines. However, Chinese firms also face bottlenecks in five aspects of nucleic acid drugs, which Tao Capital identified as nucleic acid sequence, modification, exploration of nucleic acid molecular types, innovation of delivery systems, and expansion of clinical applications.

Read the full Chinese analysis about the interest and opportunities in the nucleic acid field.

Read the English commentary about the interest in the nucleic acid field.



ADC Race Heats Up as Ipsen Joins with $900m Sutro Deal and Genmab Buys ProfoundBio

Ipsen has entered the antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) field by acquiring global rights to Sutro Biopharma’s preclinical candidate, STRO-003, targeting the ROR1 tumour antigen. With a potential deal value of $900 million and an equity investment in Sutro, Ipsen aims to advance STRO-003 into clinical trials, considering its significant potential in solid tumours. ROR1 is attracting attention from various pharmaceutical companies, such as Boehringer Ingelheim and Merck & Co., reflecting the growing interest in ADCs in oncology and recent major acquisitions in the field.

Meanwhile, Genmab is investing $1.8 billion to acquire ProfoundBio and gain control of the mid-phase ADC Rina-S. The move potentially challenges AbbVie’s Elahere in treating ovarian cancer and other solid tumours by targeting folate receptor alpha (FRα). This strategic shift reflects Genmab’s focus on leveraging its development capabilities and expanding into new therapeutic areas. CEO Jan van de Winkel further hinted at potential future acquisitions in immune-mediated and inflammatory diseases.

Read the full article about Ipsen’s deal with Sutro.

Read the full article about Genmab’s buyout of ProfoundBio.


Luxury & Retail News

luxury and fmcg industry news


Moves: Kering, Valentino and Bulgari

Kering: Luxury group Kering has appointed Chief Strategy Officer Mélanie Flouquet and Chief Financial Officer Armelle Poulou to its executive committee. The move enhances the committee’s gender diversity as 46% of the committee are now women. Flouquet, who joined Kering in May 2021, has extensive experience leading the luxury goods equity research team of JP Morgan as its managing director. Poulou, who became the chief financial officer in September 2023, has a background in financial roles at Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, and EDF.

Valentino: Alessandro Michele, former star designer at Gucci, has rejoined Kering as the new creative director of Valentino, succeeding Pierpaolo Piccioli. This is a surprise, as Michele previously left Gucci in 2022 amidst underperforming sales. Following the appointment, he is expected to bring his flamboyant and bohemian-chic designs to the brand.

Bulgari: Mary Katrantzou has been appointed as Bulgari’s creative director of leather goods and accessories. This marks a significant collaboration between the Greek-born designer and the Italian luxury brand. Katrantzou is known for her innovative designs in digital placement printing and her fascination with jewellery. Her new role will involve transforming Bulgari’s archive into functional yet ornamental pieces.

Read the full article about Kering’s new executive committee.

Read the full article about Valentino’s creative chief.

Read the full article about Mary Katrantzou’s new role.



Isetan Singapore to go Private

Japanese department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi is set to acquire the remaining 47.27% stake in Isetan Singapore Limited for approximately S$140 million, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary. Established in 1970 and listed on the Singapore Exchange in 1981, Isetan Singapore operates three department stores under the Isetan brand. The announcement comes after Isetan Mitsukoshi recently announced the closure of its flagship store in Shanghai after 27 years of operation.

Read the full article about Isetan Singapore’s privatisation.



Mitsui and Rohto Close to Finalising a Deal to Acquire Eu Yan Sang

A consortium led by Mitsui and Rohto Pharmaceutical is close to acquiring a majority stake in Eu Yan Sang International, a traditional Chinese medicine and healthcare company. The Japanese firms have outbid others and are finalising details for a potential deal, which may be signed as early as next week, though talks are ongoing. The deal could value Eu Yan Sang at approximately US$800 million and potentially involves the sale of shares held by Tower Capital Asia, Temasek Holdings’ unit Blanca Investments, and members of Eu Yan Sang’s founding family.

Read the full article about Eu Yan Sang’s potential deal.



Shein’s Profits Double Ahead of IPO

Online fast-fashion retailer Shein has seen a significant profit rise, surpassing $2 billion in 2023. The profit surge comes as it awaits regulatory approval for a potential IPO in New York or London. With its IPO viewed as a test of Beijing’s stance on overseas-listed Chinese firms, Shein explores London as an alternative.

Read the full article about Shein’s financial performance.



Thai Investor Eyes Signa Brands Including Selfridges

Thailand’s Central Group plans to acquire upscale brands, including Selfridges in London, Germany’s KaDeWe Group, and Switzerland’s Globus, from Signa Retail Luxury Holding. Discussions are underway with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund regarding Selfridges and the Group aims to raise its stake to 60% and gain control of the operating business. Separately, German fashion retailer Breuninger and over a dozen others are interested in acquiring Berlin’s iconic KaDeWe department store, potentially worth over 100 million euros.

Read the full article about the Thai investor’s interest in luxury brands.


Tech & AI News

tech industry trends and ai developments


StealthMole Secures $7m for AI-Powered Dark Web Platform

StealthMole, an AI-driven dark web intelligence startup, secured a $7 million Series A funding round to expand its operations. The Singapore-headquartered startup aims to use the funds to establish more R&D centres and fuel geographical growth, especially in East Asia and SEA. The company, co-founded by Louis Hur and Simon Choi in 2022, specialises in tracking cyber threats, particularly in Asia. It uses over 255 billion analysed data points from various hidden sources such as the dark web and leaked databases. With a focus on detecting cybercrime and offering insights into regional contexts, StealthMole caters to government agencies, law enforcement, and cybersecurity teams, aiming to fill critical gaps in understanding digital threats.

Read the full article about StealthMole’s fundraising.



EV Scene in SEA Heats Up as Chinese Maker Aion Joins with Indonesia Plant

Chinese electrive vehicle (EV) manufacturer Aion, a unit of GAC Group, is expanding its presence in SEA with plans to build a plant in Indonesia. It will be partnering with Indomobil Group for local production. As the region’s EV market grows, Aion aims to compete with rivals like BYD and Tesla by offering intelligent new-energy vehicles to Indonesian consumers. As competition in the global EV market intensifies, Chinese companies are increasingly targeting SEA. The region is considered a key market amidst regulatory challenges in the US and Europe, where concerns over Chinese-made electric cars have led to potential tariffs and restrictions.

Read the full paid article about Aion’s Indonesia plant.



Futureverse’s Venture Arm Boosts Gaming in APAC with $10m Ecosystem Fund

Born Ready, the venture arm of Metaverse’s Futureverse, launched a $10 million fund to invest in APAC’s Web3, metaverse, gaming, AI, and content sectors. The collaboration between Futureverse and Catalyze Research aims to advance ecosystem growth on Root Network, particularly in Korea.



OpenAI to Launch First Asia Office in Japan as Part of Global Expansion

OpenAI is expanding its global presence by opening an office in Tokyo, marking its first in Asia, following previous establishments in London and Dublin. The move comes amid growing interest in AI in Japan, with major companies like SoftBank and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone advancing AI services for Japanese speakers. OpenAI aims to bolster its Japanese language offerings and collaborate with the government on regulatory frameworks.

Read the full article about OpenAI’s first Asia office.



Open-Source AI Firms Offer a Democratising Alternative to AI Development

The emergence of foundation models, like ChatGPT, has sparked a race among tech giants to acquire AI startups. These acquisitions concentrate power among tech giants, prompting concerns about antitrust issues and closed decision-making in AI development. However, open-source AI initiatives led by companies like Mistral and Hugging Face offer a democratising alternative, potentially fostering more innovation and understanding of AI technology in the long term.

Read the full article about open-source AI.


Be the First to Seize Market Opportunities

For deeper insights on the market trends and analysis of potential market opportunities, reach out to our consultants at JC Consulting today. Executive search firms’ teams in Singapore and China specialise in diverse fields, including legal recruitment, life sciences recruitment, luxury & retail recruitment and private equity talent acquisition. Our engagement in key business and financial hubs across APAC positions us to provide insightful analysis tailored to your industry and job function’s needs.