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Southeast Asia “giants” simultaneously change their business strategies

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LG is quitting the smartphone business.

LG is exiting the smartphone business, which has been rumored for several months, following the division’s huge losses over the past five years. Reports that LG has been considering exiting smartphones have been around since at least the beginning of this year and confirmed on the 5th of April. The decision will “enable the company to focus resources in growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services,” LG said in a statement.

Existing phones will remain on sale, and LG says it’ll continue to support its products “for a period of time which will vary by region.” The company hasn’t said anything about possible layoffs except that “details related to employment will be determined at the local level.” LG says it expects to have completed the business’ closure by the end of July this year.

Grab failed to attempt fusion with Gojek.

Southeast Asian ride-hailing and food delivery giant Grab has raised $2 billion from its first term loan, in what it said was the largest institutional debt in Asia’s technology sector, as the company expands its regional services. The five-year senior secured loan was upsized from the initial $750 million after the company secured commitments from international institutional investors.

Backed by investors including Softbank Group Corp, Grab has evolved from a ride-hailing app operator to a one-stop shop for services such as food delivery, payments and insurance in Southeast Asia, home to about 650 million people. Ranked as Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup with a valuation of more than $16 billion, Grab recently won a digital bank licence in Singapore.

The loan will be used for general corporate purposes and will allow Grab to diversify its finances.

SK Group acquires 16.26% stake from VinCommerce for $410 million.

The South Korean conglomerate SK Group has acquired a 16.26% stake in the Vietnamese retail chain VinCommerce, which is currently owned by Masan Group, for a consideration of $410 million, according to an announcement. The transaction values the retailer at $2.5 billion.

VinCommerce operates the largest grocery modern trade retail platform in Vietnam with supermarket chain VinMart and Minimart chain VinMart+. Masan also owns VinEco — the largest vegetable and fruit brand in Vietnam that is available exclusively at VinMart and VinMart+ stores.

Masan is planning to use its proceeds from this approximately $225-million transaction to strengthen its balance sheet and to fund growth initiatives.

HATCH! Ventures Vietnam renamed themselves as Draper Startup House Vietnam.

Draper Startup House, a global network of hostels fostering the growth of entrepreneurship, has acquired Hatch Ventures Vietnam (HATCH!), a local startup ecosystem builder. This deal expands Draper’s operations into Vietnam and enables HATCH! to access the former’s Venture Network.

According to Draper, the acquisition brings entrepreneurs and startups in Vietnam a faster path for global reach. It also aims to attract the digitally nomadic fans of Draper Startup House such as remote workers and other travellers to Vietnam for its culture, geography and talent.

Draper Startup Houses typically comprise a hospitality operation, with hostel-type lodging and related services; and unique programs and activities for innovation-focused people working to address the world’s biggest challenges. Now participants and alum can take advantage of Draper’s programs for learning and funding.

Conversational AI startup enters Vietnam markets.

Uniphore, an early leader in Conversational Service Automation (CSA), today announced it has raised $140 million in Series D funding, bringing the total funds invested in the company to $210 million. This latest round of financing was led by Sorenson Capital Partners. It includes additional new investors from Europe and the Middle East, Serena Capital and Sanabil Investments, and strategic investor, Cisco Investments. Further expanding their previous investments in Uniphore, March Capital Partners, National Grid Partners, Chiratae Ventures, Iron Pillar Fund, and Sistema Capital also participated in the Series D offering. The funding will be used to extend Uniphore’s technology and market leadership in AI, Automation and Machine learning across the enterprise.

Sources of information include The Verge, Reuters, Dealstreet Asia, e27, and Business Wire.