For anyone looking to evaporate a large pile of money, the past year has presented abundant options. Of those, one of the faster and more effective methods involved investing in tech companies going public via SPAC.
As we’ve documented several times over the past few quarters, venture-backed companies that went public via SPAC deals have mostly posted exceedingly poor returns. As we revisit a previously curated list of truly terrible SPAC performers, it’s clear they’re closing out the year at a particularly low point.
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How bad? Out of a selected set of 50 completed SPAC deals, at least 24 were trading below $1 per share 1. Because most blank-check companies initially price at $10 per share, that means they’re down 90% or more to date.
Here’s a list2 of the 24 sub-$1 names from our sample:
No sector has been spared, as one can see from the broad array of industries represented among these beaten-down stocks. It includes autonomous driving (Embark, AEye), electric vehicles (Faraday Future, Lightning eMotors, Xos), telehealth (Babylon, Talkspace), and real estate (Offerpad, Doma), among others.
What’s also noteworthy is that the vast majority are trading at a lower point than they were a couple quarters ago. So no, things aren’t looking up yet.
And that’s not the worst
And trading below $1 isn’t necessarily the worst fate for a troubled SPAC. A few others have either declared bankruptcy or sold to acquirers for an even smaller pittance of their former price.
One of the higher-profile casualties was Enjoy Technology, a mobile retail company founded by former Apple store executive Ron Johnson, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June. The company had previously raised more than $230 million in known venture funding from backers including Kleiner Perkins, Oak Investment Partners and L Catterton, and another $250 million from SPAC investors.
In the biotech space, meanwhile, Clarus Therapeutics, a developer of androgen-based medicines that went public in September 2021, is also winding down. The company announced in September that it has filed for Chapter 11 and is selling its sole commercial asset, a therapeutic for testosterone deficiency.
Metromile, the pay-per-mile car insurance provider, also took a hit. The one-time unicorn sold to fellow insurtech Lemonade at a valuation representing a roughly 95% cut from Metromile’s peak public share price.
Rounding out the list, Carlotz, a used car marketplace, sold this month to Shift Technologies, a used auto e-commerce platform trading for 23 cents a share, in a deal that appears to be valued at roughly $20 million. Carlotz previously raised over $160 million in venture and SPAC-related financing.
Any success stories out there?
No company on our sample list of 50 currently has shares trading above the $10 break-even threshold for SPAC deals. The top performer — consumer health platform Hims & Hers — was recently trading at a little over $7.
Meanwhile, there are 15 companies with shares between $1 and $2, listed below:
The remaining companies on our list are trading between $2 and $7.
This story isn’t over
For anyone who binge-watches drama shows, the SPAC plotline is looking sort of familiar. We’re at that point where the protagonist is looking outmatched and on the cusp of defeat.
If this was Hollywood, of course, the protagonist would suddenly summon the strength for a big comeback, overcome foes and declare victory. But we’re in the real world, where this kind of underdog story only occasionally plays out.
At any rate, this does look like the back-against-the-wall moment for many SPACs. It’d be nice if 2023 could bring us some of those much-awaited dramatic turnarounds.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
This total includes two companies — Embark and Hippo Holdings — which completed reverse stock splits, a move in which several lower-priced shares are combined into one higher-priced share. If these companies had not carried out reverse splits, their shares would be well below $1 each.↩
Prices as of Tuesday, Dec. 13.↩
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