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One thing to start: Germany’s top football clubs have voted to retreat from talks with private equity firms. After the Super League fiasco and a war within Italy’s Serie A over the role of buyout groups, it’s the latest sign of a backlash against financial investors in the sport. Read more here.

One invitation to start: join the FT team, including DD’s own Rob Smith and Arash Massoudi, as they take you inside the rise and fall of Greensill Capital and give you a front-row seat into our reporting over the past three years. Register for the free online event here. (Don’t forget to watch the FT film on the saga to get up to speed beforehand.)

Welcome to Due Diligence, your briefing on dealmaking, private equity and corporate finance from the Financial Times. Want to receive DD in your inbox? Sign up here. Get in touch with us anytime: Due.Diligence@ft.com.

Vegan latte, extra froth: Oatly prepares to list

The social media team behind Oatly has described its chief Toni Petersson as a “multitalented” operator, capable of running the company and performing a Super Bowl ad-featured song called “Wow No Cow”.

As for feedback on his musical abilities — “Toni is a big boy, he can take it,” they say.

Toni Petersson, chief executive officer of Oatly © Bloomberg

Whether he’ll be so chilled about feedback from investors and analysts is another question. 

The Malmo-based vegan milkmaker kicks off its much-hyped New York stock market debut today, with the offering price set on Wednesday of $17 a share giving it a valuation of $10bn.

For context, that’s five times the valuation set by the $200m investment led by Blackstone, with a star-studded list of stakeholders, including Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z.

Oatly raised $1.1bn in the initial public offering, a sum it intends to use to expand its product choices and production as it takes on a market fraught with competition. Existing shareholders in the company separately sold $335m in shares as part of the offering.

Column chart of $m showing Oatly sales

Investors are wondering how Petersson, by some interpretations the antithesis of a corporate chieftain (“sometimes you have to give up profitability, to do good,” he once told Goldman Sachs) will fare beneath the microscope.

“You have a lot more watchful eyes from the analyst community and investors. A lot of us [analysts] are thinking short-term, looking at sales figures and margins,” said CFRA analyst Arun Sundaram.

Petersson has already managed some firefighting while the company has been in private hands. 

When consumers demanded answers about Oatly’s connection to Blackstone and its Trump-supporting chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, the brand defended itself on Twitter saying: “All in all, it’s about moving the world’s capital towards green investment.”

One thing to note: Oatly’s majority stakeholder, a joint venture between the Chinese state-owned conglomerate China Resources and the Belgian family investment group Verlinvest, will cut its 55.9 per cent stake but will retain “significant influence” according to the IPO filing

That backing could cause complications if the US government makes it hard for the group to share information with a state-owned company. (This is one of the reasons Oatly has said it may add a listing in Hong Kong.)

Dig deeper into the company and its charismatic boss — who dabbled in beer distribution, handmade crockery and running a nightclub before turning to the Oatly gig — with this article by the FT’s Emiko Terazono and Judith Evans. 

Inside the investment firm founded by the son of a top Chinese official 

When it comes to finance, Liu He is Chinese president Xi Jinping’s right-hand man. 

As vice-premier in charge of the financial sector of the world’s second-largest economy, he is at the very top of the Chinese Communist party.

Liu He, left, is the most trusted economic and financial adviser of Xi Jinping, China’s president © Reuters

And as head of the Chinese government’s Financial Stability and Development Committee, Liu is one of the principal officials overseeing Xi’s crackdown on Alibaba and Ant Group (more on that in this DD post from last month).

His son Liu Tianran, who also uses the English name Andy, is the founder of Tianyi Ziteng Asset Management, also known as Skycus Capital — the subject of this FT investigation by Tom Mitchell, Tabby Kinder and Demetri Sevastopulo.

As his father rose through the ranks, Andy Liu stepped back from Skycus, standing down as chair of the investment group before his father joined the Chinese Communist party’s 25-member politburo. He transferred his Skycus shares to another executive shortly after the elder Liu took the vice-premier job in March 2018.

Tencent founder and chief executive Pony Ma, left, sits with his rival, Alibaba’s co-founder Jack Ma, right, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2018 © AFP

Yet several people close to Skycus’s operations told the FT that Andy Liu continued to work on deals for the firm and played a central role in lucrative transactions involving Tencent and JD.com units.

The tale of Skycus is likely to raise an eyebrow among those who watch China closely.

It has made successful bets linked to Tencent and JD.com, including a 2019 investment of $40m in JD.com’s healthcare spin-off that’s worth almost $230m today, and a $5m 2018 investment in Tencent Music that’s now estimated to be worth almost double that.

Meanwhile, the Communist party has set its sights on Tencent rival Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma. That scrutiny reached a climax in November, when Chinese regulators effectively blocked the $37bn IPO of Ma’s Ant Group.

While JD.com and at least one unit of Tencent, Ant’s largest online payments competitor, have also found themselves targeted by the clampdown, it seems to have hit Ma’s companies hardest, based on share prices.

Two of Europe’s biggest banking names face off in court

Though Andrea Orcel and Ana Botín sat only four seats away from each other in a Madrid courtroom on Wednesday, the former friends’ recollections of the events that led them there were miles apart.

Orcel, a former UBS executive and newly-minted chief of Italy’s UniCredit, and Botín, executive chair of Spain’s Santander, have been sparring for more than two years after a falling out with the Spanish bank left Orcel unemployed for the first time in decades.

Andrea Orcel, Europe’s best-known investment banker, at the court hearing in Madrid on Wednesday © Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg

Orcel, a longtime adviser to Santander while at UBS, is claiming tens of millions of euros in compensation from the Spanish lender for reversing its plans to hire him in 2019.

Botín, on the other hand, says the offer letter issued to Orcel back when he was being courted for Santander’s top job didn’t constitute a contract. 

The Santander boss greeted Orcel upon her arrival just before the hearing began, to which he did not audibly reply, the FT’s Daniel Dombey tells DD in a dispatch from Madrid.

Ana Botín sat four seats away from Orcel in the front row of the courtroom © Juan Medina/Reuters

Orcel, who halved his €112m claim for compensation from Santander the night before the hearing, wasn’t asked to testify. Though his lawyers did question Botín intensively throughout her 90 minutes of testimony, Daniel tells us.

But the hearing was abruptly cut short before any decisions could be made. Two key players in the case, UBS chair Axel Weber and the Swiss bank’s head of performance and reward Mark Shelton, didn’t show up to court despite being summoned, citing the pandemic. UBS said they had offered to appear via video.

“These people travel a lot,” judge Javier Sánchez Beltrán countered, before rescheduling.

Stay tuned for the next episode.

Job moves

  • Deutsche Bank has hired Daniel Ross as its new head of investment banking coverage in the UK and Ireland. He joins in London from Barclays, where he was vice-chair of UK investment banking and global head of media.

  • Citibank is promoting its global head of trade Ebru Pakcan to the new head of EMEA emerging markets, replacing Atiq Rehman, who will retire after a 37-year career at the lender. 

  • Kirkland & Ellis has recruited Peter Abbott as a tax partner in its London office. He joins from Macfarlanes.

  • The Silicon Valley law firm Cooley is setting up a new office in Chicago, which will include nine new partners from DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins and Winston & Strawn.

  • Perella Weinberg Partners has hired Christian Bradeen as a partner in New York. He joins from Credit Suisse, where he was a managing director advising clients in the chemicals and speciality materials sectors.

  • Weil Gotshal has recruited Jenine Hulsmann as a partner in London to lead the expansion of its European antitrust and competition practice. She is currently a partner at the law firm Clifford Chance.

Smart reads

Back to basics AT&T wasn’t the first of its kind to chase Hollywood dreams. But US telecoms groups are realising that focusing on pipes may not be such a bad idea, as they unwind big bets on entertainment to concentrate on their 5G capabilities. (FT)

Meme stock masters A gaggle of bold retail investors jumped on the chance to invest in the car rental group Hertz. Now their investments are paying off in spades as the company climbs out of bankruptcy. (Wall Street Journal)

Bankrolling justice The litigation-finance industry scored a public relations victory last month with a victory for Post Office workers. But as UK courts adjust to the creep of private investor cash, the latest case does not look so clear-cut. (FT)

News round-up

British Steel’s Chinese owner sets sights on Gupta’s UK plants (FT) 

John Laing to be taken private by KKR in £2bn deal (FT + Lex)

Bitcoin gyrates on fears of regulatory crackdown (FT)

Pipe to move into securitisation as it hits $2bn valuation (FT) 

Larry Summers accuses Federal Reserve of ‘dangerous complacency’ over inflation (FT)

SoftBank marks retreat from global solar ambitions with Adani deal (FT)

Diego Della Valle open to selling more of Tod’s to LVMH (FT)

Carillion liquidators agree funding deal for £250m lawsuit against KPMG (FT + Opinion)

SoftBank/retail bonds: buyers bewitched by an all-purpose pitcher (Lex)

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Due Diligence is written by Arash Massoudi, Kaye Wiggins and Robert Smith in London, Javier Espinoza in Brussels, James Fontanella-Khan, Ortenca Aliaj, Sujeet Indap, Eric Platt, Mark Vandevelde and Francesca Friday in New York and Miles Kruppa in San Francisco. Please send feedback to due.diligence@ft.com




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