Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

Garena Rebrands as Sea After Raising $550 Million in New Funding

  • Hillhouse, Cathay Financial, Farallon joined latest round
  • Startup adopts new name Sea Ltd. to signal regional ambitions

Garena has rebranded as Sea Ltd. after Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup secured $550 million in funds to step up a battle with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and other players in Indonesia.

The eight-year-old startup backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. landed a clutch of new investors in its latest funding round, including some of the region’s wealthiest families. They include GDP Venture, led by Martin Hartono, the son of Indonesia’s richest man, and JG Summit Holdings Inc., founded by Philippine billionaire John Gokongwei. 

The shopping and online games company is staking out a spot as competition in Southeast Asian e-commerce intensifies, particularly in the largely untapped market of Indonesia. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has expanded its online marketplace since buying control of Lazada Group SA in 2016, while JD.com Inc. is said to be investing in domestic player Tokopedia to boost its business in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. 

Founded by Chinese-born entrepreneur Forrest Li in Singapore in 2009, the company’s new name is also an acronym for Southeast Asia. Its businesses include the online games brand Garena, e-commerce operator Shopee and digital payments service AirPay. It’s said to have picked Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to prepare for an initial public offering -- possibly in the U.S. -- that could fetch about $1 billion.

Other investors in the round include Farallon Capital Management, Hillhouse Capital, Cathay Financial Holding Co. and an investment arm of Taiwanese food conglomerate Uni-President Enterprises Corp. also joined the round, Sea said.

Sea will use the majority of the new funds to expand Shopee in Indonesia. The online marketplace’s annualized gross merchandise value has more than doubled in the past nine months to more than $3 billion, according to the company.

Sea declined to disclose the valuation after the latest round. It last raised $170 million at a valuation of $3.75 billion in 2016, and its roster of previous investors include Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. and General Atlantic LLC. The startup has said it grew net revenue 13-fold from 2011 to about $270 million in 2015.

The company also announced the appointment of three advisers that may prove instrumental to its Indonesian efforts: former Singapore foreign minister George Yeo, former Indonesian trade minister Mari Pangestu and Pandu Sjahrir, a director of Indonesian coal producer PT Toba Bara Sejahtra Tbk.

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