Tailwind International, the New York-listed special purpose acquisition company, is searching for European tech unicorns to list in the US as part of plans to bypass EU and UK markets and build a multibillion-dollar franchise of Europe-based businesses.
Tailwind, which says it is the first Spac where a group of European tech founders will focus on investing in the region’s tech companies, raised $345m on the New York Stock Exchange last month with the intention of taking a European tech group public in the US.
Tommy Stadlen, co-founder of venture capital fund Giant and the Spac’s chair, said: “We will bring one of Europe’s iconic technology companies to the US public markets.”
Pierre Denis, former Jimmy Choo chief executive and Coty board member, is the chief executive. Nathalie Gaveau, co-founder of French ecommerce site PriceMinister, is president and other sponsors include the co-founders of luxury online retailer MatchesFashion and German meal kit delivery business HelloFresh.
Philip Krim, the co-founder of online mattress start-up Casper, is a co-founder.
The number of Spacs — which list on the stock exchange before they find a business to buy — has grown rapidly in the US in the past few months as investors have piled in with the hope of acquiring stakes in promising target businesses.
In February alone a total of 174 Spacs filed or priced for expected gross proceeds of $56bn, according to data from FactSet.
So far this year, there have been more than 180 Spac filings, against last year’s total of nearly 250, which was the highest in five years.
European tech groups, including the UK’s used car site Cazoo and health app Babylon, have already held talks with US Spacs.
The Tailwind team is planning to launch a series of Spacs to build out the franchise. The minimum size of any target would be $1bn, Stadlen said, ranging up to $15bn, with the potential to raise additional equity.
He said the UK would be a focus owing to the larger numbers of promising tech companies, alongside France, Germany and the Nordic nations.
In a sign of booming demand among investors, Tailwind increased the size of the listing from $250m to the maximum of $300m, and also exercised the “greenshoe option” that allowed its underwriters to buy up further shares, taking the total to $345m. People close to the process said there was $3bn of demand for the initial public offering.
Stadlen said Tailwind would have an advantage in being run by tech founders — pointing out that operator-led Spacs outperformed peers — and that a “multi-Spac” platform was more likely to succeed because of access to resources.
Tailwind has already had conversations with European venture capital firms and founders to discuss potential US listings of their businesses, he said.
He added that European exchanges had been unattractive to tech listings because they offered lower potential returns. Only two have listed in Europe so far this year, according to Refinitiv. A US Spac offers founders access to US markets where there were “more capital and better valuations”.
Bankers in London are keen for the UK government to change the listing rules on Spacs to compete with New York and rival cities in Europe. At present, a Spac acquisition in the UK is considered a reverse takeover and the shares are suspended. Trading cannot resume until a deal prospectus is published, for which there is no specified deadline, so investors who want to sell their shares can find themselves locked in.
Bankers in London have talked up Amsterdam as Europe’s hub for Spacs, while German venture capitalist Klaus Hommels launched a European tech-focused Spac, Lakestar, in Frankfurt last week, the first on the Xetra market in a decade.
“We are open to Spacs as a product and have all the conditions in place for more of these to go public in Germany. They have been the go-to topic in most calls with issuers, banks, and lawyers over the past six months so we expect Spac listings to accelerate in Europe,” said Renata Bandov, head of capital markets at Deutsche Börse.
“In the post-Brexit environment, UK-listed companies cannot currently passport their prospectuses into the EU so we anticipate a higher influx of dual listings.”