The Rise of SPACs: IPO Disruptors or Blank Check Distortions?

For decades, the process that companies in the United States have used to go public has followed a familiar script. The company files a prospectus, providing prospective investors with information about its business model and financials, and hires an investment banker or bankers to manage the issuance process. The bankers, in addition to doing a roadshow where they market the company to investors, also  price” the company for the offering, having tested out what investors are willing to pay, and guarantee that they will deliver that price, all in return for underwriting commissions. During the last decade, as that process revealed its weaknesses, many have questioned whether the services provided by banks merited the fees that they earned. Some have argued that direct listings, where companies dispense with bankers, and go directly to the market, serve the needs of investors and issuing companies much better, but the constraints on direct listings have made them unsuitable or unacceptable alternatives for many private companies. In the last three years, SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies) have given traditional IPOs a run for their money, and in this post, I look at whether they offer a better way to go public or are more of a stop on the road to a better way to go public.

What is a SPAC?

The attention that SPACs have drawn over the last few months may make it seem like they are a new phenomenon, but they have been around for a long time, though not in (Read more...)