HONG KONG/SINGAPORE : Southeast Asian e-commerce and gaming giant Sea Ltd is winding down its investment arm, two people with knowledge of the matter said, amid a cooling investment environment globally as macroeconomic and market uncertainty weigh on valuations.
The arm, Sea Capital, stopped new equity investing in 2022 with leadership moving on in May, while Sea itself is placing less priority on investing given market conditions, one of the people said.
Sea – better known as owner of e-commerce platform Shopee and online gaming developer Garena – declined to comment. The people with knowledge of the matter declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Sea’s decision to close the two-year-old arm comes as technology investors – both funds and firms – have held back on investing amid higher interest rates and while economies struggle for growth as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Globally in the tech sector, mergers and acquisitions backed by private equity have totalled $78 billion so far this year, down 35 per cent from the same period last year, Refinitiv data showed.
In Asia ex-Japan, such deals have reached $5.8 billion, down 67 per cent on year and the lowest since 2017, the data showed.
Singapore-based Sea launched Sea Capital in March 2021 with initial capital of $1 billion after buying Hong Kong’s Composite Capital Management, founded by former Hillhouse Capital partner David Ma who became Sea Capital’s chief investment officer.
New York-listed Sea in an earnings briefing last month said Ma had joined the group’s board of directors and would no longer serve as CIO.
One of the people said the decision to wind down Sea Capital was prompted by “less deal activity” resulting in fewer investment opportunities.
The second person said Sea Capital’s entire team had been disbanded and moved to other roles in May. The arm itself will continue to exist on paper as its investments are still valid.
Sea Capital had made at least three investments, including in 2021 into collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Other FTX backers have had to mark down their investment to zero after FTX filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection in November.
Sea, Southeast Asia’s biggest listed tech firm, began an overhaul of the group last year, reducing its workforce by around 7,000 people, or about 10 per cent, and freezing salaries as its market capitalisation tumbled to $32.54 billion from an early pandemic high of over $200 billion.
The overhaul, which included exiting India, Europe and some Latin American markets, helped the 14-year old company achieve its first-ever quarterly net profit in December.
Sea’s share price has risen 10 per cent so far this year, compared with a decline of about 2 per cent in the benchmark NYSE composite index.
(This story has been corrected to say Ma became chief investment officer of Sea Capital not Sea in paragraph 7)