Online business lender’s total funding volume tops $1 billion after only 4 years
BlueVine announced today it has raised another $12 million from new investors, M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and the venture arm of insurance and financial services provider, Nationwide.
The announcement comes eight weeks after BlueVine, a leading provider of online working capital financing to small and medium-sized businesses, said it had secured $60 million from Menlo Ventures, SVB Capital and other investors.
The additional funding raises BlueVine’s Series E total to $72 million.
“We’re excited about BlueVine’s suite of technology-enabled working capital solutions for small and medium sized businesses,” said Elliott Robinson, partner at M12. “The company’s market traction to-date has been impressive and we believe their technology and talent have set them on the path for continued growth. We look forward to seeing what they do next.”
“As the number one total small business insurer in the U.S., Nationwide has a deep and enduring commitment to small business owners,” said Erik Ross, head of Nationwide Ventures. “This investment aligns with our strategy to co-create value for our members to help them protect what’s most important and to plan for a secure financial future.”
The equity investment news comes as BlueVine reached another major milestone: the Silicon Valley startup said its total funding volume since inception has topped $1 billion.
BlueVine, which now has more than 200 employees in Redwood City, New Jersey, New Orleans and Israel, is marking its 5th anniversary this month. BlueVine was launched in July 2013 and began offering online financing services to small and medium-sized businesses in March 2014.
“It’s been an amazing journey for me personally and for our entire team,” said CEO and founder Eyal Lifshitz, who left a career in venture capital to launch BlueVine in 2013.
“We had very limited resources when we began and we were up against bigger and more established competitors. But hard work and persistence have paid off for us. Through cutting edge technology and product innovation, we’ve been able to make capital more accessible to small business owners. These new investments will help us offer more financing to even more entrepreneurs.”
Chief Financial Officer Ana Sirbu said the new funding round highlights investor confidence in BlueVine’s strategy.
“Our successful customer acquisition, risk and capital markets strategy that has made it possible for us to build a strong, robust business,” she said. “We are excited to welcome M12 and Nationwide as BlueVine’s newest investors.”
BlueVine unveiled a special page to celebrate the company’s 5th anniversary.
Energy leaders grapple with climate targets at virtual CERAWeek
By Jessica Resnick-Ault and Marianna Parraga
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global energy leaders and other luminaries like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates bored in on the tough road to transforming world economies to a lower-carbon future at the kickoff of the all-virtual CERAWeek conference on Monday.
Within that, there was a notable bit of tension as some oil and gas executives asserted their primacy, noting the need for fossil fuels to drive economic activity. CERAWeek, the world’s largest oil-and-gas conference, returned this week after a hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and at a time when oil demand is still struggling to recover from the demand destruction wrought.
Panelists were quick to talk up ambitious plans for lowering carbon emissions, boosting investment in new technologies related to hydrogen, carbon capture and renewables.
However, the primary message was that achieving “net zero” – where polluting emissions are offset by technologies that absorb carbon dioxide for the atmosphere – is going to be difficult.
“There just isn’t yet enough renewable energy to fuel all of the energy that people need. That’s in developed countries,” said Andy Jassy, head of Amazon.com Incâ€™s cloud division who will succeed Jeff Bezos as CEO this summer.
He said the company had announced its goal for net zero emissions at a time when it had not entirely figured out how to get there.
In a keynote discussion, Gates focused on what he called the “green premium,” the cost of products or investments that are more environmentally friendly compared with those that emit more pollution. As technologies improve, those costs will decline.
Coronavirus stopped billions of people from traveling and wiped out one-fifth of worldwide demand for fuel. The U.S. fossil fuel industry is still reeling after tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The pandemic has also accelerated the energy transition, interrupting a steady rise in fuel consumption that may have otherwise continued for several more years unabated.
Since the 2019 conference, many of the world’s major oil companies have set ambitious goals to shift new investments to technologies that will reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. U.K.-based BP Plc has largely jettisoned its oil exploration team; U.S. auto giant General Motors Co announced plans to stop making gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in 15 years.
“The tone is different: There’s one theme that permeates the entire conference and that is energy transition,” said CERAWeek Founder Dan Yergin, vice chair of IHSMarkit.
Several of those oil companies also wanted to make clear that they had a role to play as well, even as governments worldwide seek to boost renewable investment.
â€œWe have to put all our effort in to decarbonise our society, but oil and gas are going to be a part of this combination,” said Repsol CEO Josu Jon Imaz.
Other speakers expected to appear include several representatives from national oil companies along with CEOs of Exxon Mobil, Total, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum.
But they will also participate in panels focusing on the energy transition. Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub and Ahmed Al Jaber, United Arab Emirates minister of state, are slated to tackle cutting carbon emissions. Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, was scheduled to appear, but backed out, citing a conflict.
Oil companies have come under increasing pressure from shareholders, governments and activists to show how they are changing their businesses from fossil fuels toward renewables, and to accelerate that transition.
However, numerous speakers warned that the viability of certain technologies, such as hydrogen, remains far in the future.
Some CEOs warned that more oil-and-gas investment was necessary.
“We don’t think peak oil is around the corner – we see oil demand growing for the next 10 years,” said John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp. “We’re not investing enough to grow oil and gas in the future,” he said, explaining that prices would need to rise to support that investment.
(Reporting By Jessica Resnick-Ault and Marianna Parraga; additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly, Jeffrey Dastin and Gary McWilliams; writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
AstraZeneca sells stake in vaccine maker Moderna for nearly $1 billion
(Reuters) – AstraZeneca sold its stake in rival COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna for roughly $1 billion over the course of last year as the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker cashed in on the meteoric rise in the U.S. company’s shares.
London-listed AstraZeneca recorded $1.38 billion in equity portfolio sales last year, with “a large proportion” of it coming from the Moderna sale, according its latest annual report.
Shares in Moderna, which went public in 2018 at $23 per share, surged more than five times last year after it began working on a COVID-19 vaccine based on a new mRNA technology that won U.S. approval in December.
Its shot relies on synthetic genes to send a message to the body’s immune system to build immunity and can be produced at a scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines like AstraZeneca’s.
Last week, Moderna said it was expecting $18.4 billion in sales from the vaccine this year, putting it on track for its first profit since its founding in 2010.
AstraZeneca began investing in Moderna in 2013, paying $240 million upfront and by the end of 2019 had built up its stake to 7.65%.
That would be worth about $3.2 billion based on Moderna’s 2020 closing stock price of $104.47, Reuters calculation showed.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine being developed with Oxford University has not been authorized in the United States and uses a weakened version of a chimpanzee common cold virus to deliver immunity-building proteins to the body.
In December, U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co said it had sold its equity investment in Moderna, but did not disclose the details of the sale proceeds.
Asset manager Baillie Gifford on Monday disclosed in a separate filing it now held 11% passive stake in Moderna as of Feb. 26.
Moderna shares were down 5% at $146.62 in afternoon trading.
(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee, Pushkala Aripaka, Kanishka Singh and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Arun Koyyur)
Vulnerable children stay shut indoors in UK with no vaccine in sight
By Emma Batha
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Britain’s children return to school next week as the country eases its third lockdown, six-year-old Daniel Meredith will not be joining his friends but will remain shut indoors with no end date in sight.
Daniel has complex medical conditions which could make a COVID-19 infection fatal but there is no vaccine available for children yet, leaving thousands of families with little option but to continue shielding.
“We really do feel like the forgotten people,” Daniel’s mother Sara Meredith, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Our lives are based around fear.”
Britain, which has launched one of the world’s fastest vaccine roll-outs, has prioritised inoculations for clinically vulnerable adults.
But with paediatric trials only just getting under way, vulnerable children could have a long wait.
Disabilities charity Contact said 61,800 children in Britain were at high risk of complications from COVID-19.
Some have been confined to their homes since before the first lockdown began in March last year.
The pandemic has claimed more than 123,000 lives in Britain, one of the world’s worst hit countries.
But with over 20 million people now inoculated, restrictions on socialising could begin to ease later this month.
Family reunions are not on the cards for Daniel, however.
Meredith, 40, said her son missed his grown-up sisters and carers, who have been unable to visit them in Walsall, central England, for a year.
“This has had a massive impact on him. He doesn’t understand about COVID. He sees it as nobody wants him,” she said.
“Daniel loved school and was thriving. But I cannot see him going back this year.”
The lockdown has been particularly grueling for parents of children requiring round-the-clock care like Daniel, whose fluid levels need to be managed day and night.
Close to tears with exhaustion, Meredith said the family used to get help from outside carers so she and her husband could catch up on sleep during the day, but it was too risky to have them in the house now.
The University of Oxford said it was beginning trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on children aged over six in a study that will run until September 2022, but results could be available this year.
Pfizer and BioNTech are already evaluating results from trials of their vaccine on 12- to 15-year-olds. Studies in over-fives are set for the coming months, and under-fives later in the year.
The British government says most children are unlikely to get ill from COVID-19, but in very exceptional circumstances doctors may give a vaccine “off-licence” to high risk teenagers.
But parents who have tried to get their children immunised said they had been sent around in circles.
London company director Yvonne Woodford has battled for weeks to get a vaccine for her 13-year-old daughter Katherine, who has Down’s Syndrome and a respiratory condition requiring her to use a ventilator at night.
She said Katherine’s paediatrician had said she should have the jab and their local doctor could provide it. But their doctor, who initially also assumed he could give the vaccine, later informed her he was not authorised to do so.
In a desperate bid to cut through the red tape, Woodford took Katherine to her own vaccination appointment, armed with the paediatrician’s letter.
The centre told her they would be shut down if they vaccinated Katherine.
Woodford is now pushing to get the issue raised in parliament.
“All the doctors and consultants who know Katherine think she should have it, but at the moment there’s no way of it being given to her,” said the mother-of three.
The health department could not immediately say who, if anyone, was authorised to give the vaccine “off-licence”. Britain’s national health service and paediatric body also could not shed light on this.
Lockdown has not only impacted Katherine’s schooling, but also her health because she cannot go outdoors to exercise.
“We’ve shut down as much as we possibly can. We don’t see anyone,” said Woodford, who has to keep an all-night vigil by her daughter’s bed several times a week after cutting back on outside carers.
The situation has also impacted her two sons who have remained largely cooped up indoors even when restrictions have been eased.
“It’s very worrying and absolutely exhausting,” Woodford said. “How long can you expect families to go on like this?”
Her frustrations are shared by Julie Nixon, a mother-of-six who also fosters three boys with severe learning disabilities and complex medical conditions at her home on the south coast. Doctors say the oldest, James, would not survive COVID-19.
“Until he has his vaccine our life can’t resume. We’re absolutely desperate for it,” said Nixon, 53, who has been honoured by the Queen for her work in caring for children with disabilities.
She worries about the longterm impact on the physical health of her foster sons, who have missed important medical appointments and physiotherapy normally provided by their school.
James has outgrown his spinal jacket, but Nixon cannot risk taking him to hospital to get a new one fitted.
She has also kept her own school-age children off school for fear they could bring the virus home.
“They have seen no friends, they have not been out and about, and I worry about their mental health,” Nixon said.
“Everyone in Britain is hanging on for the light at the end of the tunnel now, but there’s no light for us yet.”
(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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