What's going on?
The special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) trend is at risk of petering out, as investors stop giving the “blank check companies” the not-so-blank checks they desperately need.
What does this mean?
SPACs – listed shell companies that merge with unlisted companies to fast-track their arrival on the stock market – are hugely popular among investors right now. So popular, in fact, that the number of SPACs listing on stock markets last quarter, as well as the amount they raised from investors, topped last year’s grand totals.
But private investors are starting to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities. SPACs, after all, don’t just raise money from public investors when they first list on the stock market: they typically look to institutions for more money once they’ve identified which company they want to merge with. Now, though, SPACs are reportedly struggling to find those investors, which only want to do so many deals at a time. And it’s showing: there have only been four SPAC launches in the first week of April – down from 41 in the first week of March (tweet this).
Why should I care?
For markets: Regulators have made their minds up.
US regulators probably aren’t helping matters: they’d already advised investors against buying into SPACs based on celebrity endorsements, and shared their concerns about insider trading and lackluster research on the part of SPAC execs. And they really kicked the boot in last week, arguing that the lofty growth projections of SPAC-targeted businesses are “overstated at best, and potentially seriously misleading at worst”.
Zooming out: There’s life in the old SPAC yet.
Easy there, squirt: let’s not call time on the SPAC craze too soon. According to the Financial Times, ride-hailing and payment services company Grab is set to list via a SPAC that would value south-east Asia’s most valuable startup at $35 billion – making it the biggest SPAC merger ever.