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SPACs Have Grown Up

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Published On: October 27, 2020

     In 2010, only $500 million of the IPO market was generated through special-purpose acquisition company (“SPAC”). SPACs have evolved from being an ignored strategy in reaching the public markets to becoming an attractive method to take a company public, pursue merger opportunities, and to create liquidity for existing shareholders.

     As of October 16, 2020, there have been 143 SPAC IPO transactions in 2020. According to Dealogic, SPAC IPOs have raised $53 billion this year. SPACs have raised more money in 2020 than in the last ten years combined. Melissa Karsh & Crystal Tse, SPACs Have Raised More in 2020 Than the Last 10 Years Combined, Bloomberg (Sept. 24, 2020), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-24/spacs-have-raised-more-in-2020-than-the-last-10-years-combined.

     Historically, Pastore & Dailey LLC has worked on SPAC offerings, litigation, and regulatory proceedings. SPACs have become popular in comparison to a traditional IPO because SPACs are cost-efficient and less time-consuming, and they face fewer amounts of due diligence and disclosure requirements than a traditional IPO. In the past, SPACs were generally used by small companies, but now small, mid-size, and large companies are using SPACs to become a public company and raise capital. While historically SPACs had a connotation of a back door method of taking a less than pristine company public, this is no longer the case.

     A SPAC is a publicly traded company that raises capital with the intention of using that capital to acquire a private company. Through the acquisition, the SPAC takes the private company public. Many well-known companies have entered the public markets through a SPAC IPO, such as: DraftKings; Virgin Galactic; Nikola; and Opendoor, a real estate technology company.

     Until a SPAC acquires a private company, the SPAC is just a company that holds cash. The cash is generally held in an escrow account until the SPAC acquires a private company. SPACs typically have a deadline of two years to acquire a private company. Andrew Ross Sorkin et al., SPACs Are Just Getting Started, N.Y. Times (Sept. 16, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/business/dealbook/spac-ipo-boom.html. If the SPAC does not acquire a private company in the two-year deadline, the SPAC is required to return the cash to its shareholders.

     While SPACs are gaining a lot of momentum, they have historically had less success then traditional IPOs. From the start of 2015 through July 2020, 223 SPAC IPOs had been conducted; but 89 of the 223 SPACs have managed to take a company public. Ciara Linnane, 2020 Is the Year of the SPAC – Yet Traditional IPOs Offer Better Returns, Report Finds, MarketWatch (Sept. 16, 2020), https://www.marketwatch.com/story/2020-is-the-year-of-the-spac-yet-traditional-ipos-offer-better-returns-report-finds-2020-09-04. Just 26 of those 89 companies that went public through a SPAC acquisition generated positive returns, and the shares of those companies had an average loss of 18.8%.

     This current year, however, has proved to be a different story. SPACs in 2020 have generated a rate of return of 35%, significantly higher than the S&P 500’s year-to-date return of approximately 6%. Many of the large banks are starting to work on SPACs, as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank have all conducted underwriting for SPAC IPOs. Richard Henderson et al., The Spac Race: Wall St Banks Jostle to Get In On Hot New Trend, Financial Times (Aug. 11, 2020), https://www.ft.com/content/1681c57d-e64d-4f58-b099-8885e85a708e.

     Over the past ten years, the IPO market has significantly diversified. Direct listings gained a lot of momentum, and now SPACs are adding another strategic option in the IPO market.