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    The Dutch government will reconsider selling off ABN Amro [ABRGPA.UL], Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, after senior managers agreed to give up a controversial pay rise that had stalled progress on the bank's proposed share listing.

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     The Blackstone Group  timed the top of the market perfectly with its initial public offering in June 2007; is the planned spinoff of its advisory unit, PJT Partners, a signal that the market is cresting? . "It's a great question. Must Read: 10 Stocks Billionaire John Paulson Loves. Blackstone isn't the only deal adviser tempted to cash out.

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    The number of U.S. initial public offerings fell sharply in the first quarter as shaky equities and commodities markets took their toll, after a record number of companies went public last year. U.S. IPOs raised $4.7 billion from 26 offerings in the first quarter, nearly half of the $8.6 billion from 46 offerings in the same period last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

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    The number of U.S. initial public offerings fell sharply in the first quarter as shaky equities and commodities markets took their toll, after a record number of companies went public last year. U.S. IPOs raised $4.7 billion from 26 offerings in the first quarter, nearly half of the $8.6 billion from 46 offerings in the same period last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

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    Before Steve Case co-founded America Online 30 years ago and became a billionaire, his second job out of college was helping develop new styles of slices in Wichita, Kansas, for Pizza Hut. The food business, he quickly found, was packed with risks and surprises, making it a minefield for entrepreneurs.“It’s one thing to create one product in one particular restaurant,” Case said. “It’s another thing to roll it out to 5,000 restaurants, where the chefs are 16-year-old kids who have worked there for a few hours.”Yet even as a big name venture capitalist, the 56-year-old Case hasn’t shied away from food. Speaking Thursday at Changing the Menu, part of the America Answers event series hosted by the Washington Post, Case said the $1 trillion food business is “ripe for disruption” and one of America’s most promising growth industries.Case’s Washington venture-capital firm Revolution has made several high-profile bets on food, including Sweetgreen, a fast-casual salad shop; OrderUp, a food-delivery service focused outside the biggest cities; and Revolution Foods, a school-lunch startup serving 1.5 million meals to students in 1,000 schools every week. And that, Case said, could only be the beginning.“There are opportunities to improve the way things are done at every level: How food is produced, exported, processed, consumed,” Case said in an interview this week. “Our focus … is on investing in people and ideas that can change the world, and it’s harder to imagine anything that changes the world as much as food.”Part of what makes the food industry so appetizing, Case said, are the fundamentals. The barriers to entry, and costs, to start a food enterprise are so low, considering cheap bulk ingredients and the modest wages of servers, cooks and other workers.But the profit margins for everything from food trucks to farm-to-table cafes like Sweetgreen, what he called “the next Chipotle,” can stretch incredibly high, especially as eaters prove themselves increasingly amenable to paying extra for fresh cuisine.That helps explain why Case thinks so many successful food companies have rested on their laurels, and given their competition a chance to use tech to come out ahead. Restaurants, he adds, can be some of the best places to try out pilot concepts that can be rolled out quicker, in specific markets and with a smaller footprint than a broader nationwide launch.Sweetgreen, which started in Washington in 2007, has proven to be one of the early stars of the fast-casual movement, a trend popularized particularly by millennial eaters with what Case called a “growing desire for healthy options.” More than 20 percent of the salad shop’s orders came through the chain’s mobile app, and Case expects most will start that way within three years.Far from super-saturated Silicon Valley, successful food startups can often bloom in smaller, less-watched markets: Chipotle launched in Denver; Panera Bread (PNRA) in St. Louis; Zoe’s Kitchen, a fast-casual upstart that went public last year, in Plano, Texas.That’s partly why Case will embark on a 1,200-mile road trip in May, called “Rise of the Rest,” during which he will invest $100,000 at a time with entrepreneurs in cities like Richmond, Atlanta and New Orleans.He cited several cities in middle America as “great startup meccas,” largely because they’ve been overlooked by investors focused on the coasts. “The middle of the country understands agriculture,” he said, “therefore they understand the beginnings of this revolution in food culture.”Mammoth stock debuts over the last year, including the initial public offerings of Shake Shack (SHAK), Potbelly and Zoe’s Kitchen, have piqued investors’ interest and heated up competition. Venture capitalists poured $1.1 billion into food and beverage companies worldwide in the first half of 2014, up from $1.6 billion in all of 2013, Dow Jones VentureSource data show.But even with the rivalries, many investors have pushed ahead because, as investor and tech entrepreneur Ali Partovi told the Wall Street Journal in July, “the gains available to the winners are so large.”Case’s early-stage investments are already going head-to-head with some of this competition, as with the Baltimore-based OrderUp, which in August raised $7 million in early Revolution-led venture funding. The delivery service focused on second- and third-tier cities, like Phoenix and Denver, is already competing with a raft of similar services like Caviar, DoorDash and SpoonRocket.But not all cater to busy markets or what he called the “elite foodie community.” Revolution Foods, which was started by two mothers and is a growing player in the $20 billion school-lunch industry, intends to compete with mega-competitors like Lunchables in serving the growing need for cheap, healthy meals.Food is only one focus of Revolution’s several dozen investments, including car-sharing startup Zipcar, fitness app RunKeeper and coupon site LivingSocial. But he said it was one the firm’s most important sectors, and one that had massive effects on the company’s other investments: Even health care, he said, “begins at the end of your fork.”“We’re in the first days, the early innings of this food revolution,” he said. “Nothing’s more important than what you put in your mouth three, four, five times a day.”




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    By Jessica Toonkel. The first mutual fund giving mom-and-pop investors easy access to the private market for tech startups turned a year old this week, capping a year of big gains and raising the question for would-be buyers: Is this a good deal or a danger?

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    India fragrance maker S.H. Kelkar and Company, partly owned by Blackstone Group (BX), has filed a draft prospectus with the regulator for an initial public offering that a banker directly involved in the process said would fetch around $100 million. S.H. Kelkar did not provide the full IPO amount in the prospectus, according to the draft prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

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    Nearly three years after the law was signed, the Securities and Exchange Commission has taken an important step toward implementing the so-called JOBS Act, making it easier for small and mid-sized businesses to raise capital through small public offerings.Commissioners on Wednesday approved rule changes that allow companies to raise up to $50 million a year, up from a longstanding cap of $5 million, through what’s known as Regulation A offerings. Under Reg A offerings, as they’re commonly called, companies looking to raise relatively small amounts of money through a public offering are subject to a much simpler SEC registration process, putting fewer bureaucratic hoops between them and investors.Until now, the Reg A path, which is nearly as old as the SEC itself, has been sparingly used. Congress voted to lift the cap as part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law in April 2012, largely to encourage more small and mid-sized companies to consider that option.However, it’s another more subtle change the SEC has made to the rules — one that the agency was not specifically required to adopt — that some experts believe will make the Reg A option now much more appealing to companies in need of capital. In keeping with the initial regulations proposed about a year ago, the commissioners finalized new rules that exempt Reg A offerers from registering with state financial regulators in every state in which they’re prospective shareholders reside.“I have never felt that the $5 million cap was that significant, because if you look at Reg D, you see that the average raise is less than $3 million,” DJ Paul, who last fall was appointed by SEC Chair Mary Jo White to join the agency’s advisory board on small and emerging companies, said in an interview. He was referencing a similar option in the SEC rulebook — known as Regulation D — which pertains to small offerings to a select group of private investors, as opposed to a public offering. “The real friction point has been this state approval requirement,” Paul said.Under that requirement, a company that wanted to offer shares to investors in a dozen states would be subject to 13 reviews of separate securities laws — one in each state and one by the SEC. State regulators have warned that those additional reviews help to thwart fraud and protect investors. However, entrepreneurs and legal experts have said there’s little evidence that the multiple-hoops process does anything except deter businesses from using Reg A.“This regulatory process can be lengthy, cumbersome and expensive, factors that many believe have contributed to the infrequent use of Regulation A,” several attorneys from Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods wrote in a white paper last year about the proposed rule changes. While there are typically hundreds or thousands of Reg D offerings a year, there are often only a dozen or so Reg A deals, Paul explained. Some years have passed without a single one.Under the new rules, small businesses will now only have to go through the simplified SEC review.“That change had to happen, or else Reg A was going to continue to be a dead-letter, never-used alternative,” said Paul, who also co-chairs an advocacy nonprofit called Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates based in New York.In an attempt to ease concerns about potential scams, the SEC also established two Reg A tiers. For those raising between $20 million and $50 million through a public offering, there will be additional review requirements. That’s a slight change from the proposed rules, which split the tiers at the $5 million mark. Commissioners have also agreed to require Reg A offerers to file their paperwork to the SEC for public review several weeks before they start selling to investors, giving state regulators a chance to comb through those documents if they wish to look for red flags.Ahead of the vote, SEC Chair White said Wednesday that she believes the changes “strike an appropriate balance for the roles of federal and state law” and will make Regulation A offerings “an effective, workable path to raising capital that also provides strong investor protections.”The finalization of the rules was the latest step in what has become an exceptionally long process to breathe life into the JOBS Act. Now on the cusp of its third birthday, only about half of the provisions in the statute — which, by providing better access to capital to new and growing businesses, was touted as a potentially powerful gust of wind in the economy’s sails — have been put in place by the SEC.Among the most highly anticipated changes mandated by Congress but not yet implemented by the SEC are rules allowing companies to raise small amounts of money from mom-and-pop investors via what are known as online crowdfunding portals. Initially, the SEC was to give that process the green light by the end of 2013; however, the agency has been slow to move on the rule-making process. The SEC put forth proposed rules in October 2013, but it isn’t clear when they will be finalized.While the crowdfunding rules, which are outlined in Title III of the JOBS Act, have drawn most of the JOBS Act’s spotlight, Paul explained that the Reg A changes (contained in Title IV of the legislation) will likely have a much more significant impact for certain companies.“With Reg A, we’re talking about businesses that are going to be much further along in their life cycle than the ones that would benefit from Title III,” Paul said, noting that the online crowdfunding rules will limit entrepreneurs to raising no more than $1 million from non-accredited investors. “Obviously, a company raising $1 million is in a very different place than a company raising $40 million, or even $10 million.”“It’s all part of a continuum,” Paul added. “While crowdfunding will be important for getting capital to genuine start-ups — ones that have three people working for them — this will help those that have 300 people working for them and are still looking to grow.”Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.




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    Restructuring advisory firm Houlihan Lokey Inc is laying the groundwork for an initial public offering later this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. The IPO could raise some $200 million and value the entire firm, which advises mid-sized companies on merger deals as well as larger firms in bankruptcy proceedings, at more than $1.5 billion, the paper said.

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    Mexican mining, transport and infrastructure company Grupo Mexico is hoping to raise $1.3 billion from an initial public offering of its ITM rail unit, a senior company executive said on Wednesday. The company still hopes to list in the first half of the year, and expects the offering to be in high demand, Ferromex Chief Executive Rogelio Velez said.

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    Aduro Biotech, which is developing listeria-based immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer, filed to raise $86 million in an initial public offering. Must Read: TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein on Advaxis Run. Both Aduro and Advaxis (ADXS) are developing cancer immunotherapies that use genetically modified listeria to stimulate an anti-tumor response. The companies have engaged in some patent disputes.