Silicon Valley Bank collapse left ASX firms scrambling

Derek Rose |

The failure of Silicon Valley Bank led to a difficult weekend for a number of Australian tech companies, with several scrambling for operational funds until it became clear that US regulators were stepping in with a bailout.

The US Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation announced at 9.26am AEDT on Monday that all depositors would be able to immediately access their funds in the failed bank, which counted about half the US tech sector as its clients.

“We welcome the news that SVB deposits are protected, having had a difficult few days’ navigating implications and ensuring we have kept shareholders fully informed,” said ikeGPS Group chief executive Glenn Milnes. 

The ASX-listed utility pole measurement company had $US3.2 million ($A4.8m) of its $NZ19.6m ($A18.2m) balance sheet deposited with SVB.

ASX-listed, San Francisco-based family tracking company Life360 had most of its $US95.1 million cash balance entrusted to SVB: $US6.1m in deposits and another $US75.4m in money market mutual funds managed by Morgan Stanley, Blackrock and Western Asset that SVB acted as a custodian of. 

Those money market accounts were not co-mingled with SVB assets, but over the weekend it wasn’t immediately clear how quickly Life360 could access them.

Company executives had to make arrangements over the weekend to ensure it could meet its next half-monthly payroll, scheduled for Wednesday.

“We’ve got good relationships with some of the bankers that we work with and we’ve talked to them over the weekend, and we know that we would have arrangements in place if we needed them,” co-founder and chief executive Chris Hull told analysts during a Zoom call on Monday morning. 

During the call, one analyst pointed out the US regulators’ announcement, issued just minutes before the Zoom meeting started.

“This is all evolving very quickly, as everyone understands. So we haven’t seen that formal announcement yet,” Mr Hull replied. 

But he quickly found it on the Fed’s website during the call and read aloud a portion of the bailout announcement promising access to the funds on Monday (US time), “which I think actually makes this entire call a bit of a moot point”.  

Meanwhile, Melbourne-based PDF software company Nitro Software said it had $US12.18m ($18.3m) deposited with SVB. It said in February it had a cash balance of $US28m ($A42m) as of December 31. 

The company said before the US regulators’ announcement that it was evaluating “short-term funding solutions to address any immediate operational requirements”. 

In a subsequent statement, Nitro said that given the action of US regulators, it didn’t expect the collapse of SVB to cause any “material disruptions” to its business operations or its pending takeover by Potentia Capital.

Sydney-based Tissue Repair Limited said it had $2.2m ($A3.3m) in funds with SVB, with the bulk of its funds – $A18.9m – with NAB and Macquarie.

SVB “was widely used by US and overseas venture related firms because of its user-friendly interface and the fact that it paid modest interest on checking deposits,” the biotech company said.

SiteMinder said it had some success transferring funds from the bank on Friday, but still had $A10m in exposure to SVB US and SVB UK, consisting of both cash holdings and payments from customers and partners that it may not be able to redirect in time.

But even without the SVB funds, it had $A58m in cash and term deposits on hand as of December, leaving it well-capitalised and on track to deliver growth targets, the Sydney-based global hotel commerce platform said.

Xero said it had $US5m with SVB, less than one per cent of its balance sheet.

Mr Milnes of ikeGPS said the company had in place a diversified cash deposit position in advance of SVB’s collapse, “but this item further underscores this risk-management approach”.