A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) founded by Martin Blessing, the former co-head of UBS’s Global Wealth Management business, has launched an initial public offering on Euronext Amsterdam to raise up to 415 million euros.
Called European FinTech IPO Company 1 (EFIC1), the filing is targeting acquiring a financial services or fintech company in Europe, including the UK or Israel, within the next 24 months.
With Blessing, who also previously served as CEO of Commerzbank, the leadership team includes Ben Davey, ex-CEO of Barclay Ventures, as chief investment officer and Nick Aperghis, founder of an IPO advisory firm Aperghis & Co, as chief financial officer.
The EFIC1 offering would include private placement of up to 36,510,000 units, each consisting of one ordinary share and one-third of a warrant, at a price of €10 per unit. The sponsors of the blank cheque company will invest €8.5m.
In addition, the investment company of the Dutch investors Klaas Meertens and Wim de Pundert said it intends to purchase units worth €40m in the offering as a cornerstone investment. Meertens has been appointed as a non-executive director of the SPAC.
"With EFIC1, we will establish the first fintech-focused SPAC listed in Europe. We can pave the way for promising fintech companies in Europe to go public in their home region and strengthen Europe as the financial home of a forward-looking financial industry," Blessing said.
"We have built an excellent and mutually complementary team. Our experience, expertise and network will allow us not only to connect with the right business partner, but also to support this partner in its further growth and allow it to develop as a listed company."
Special purpose acquisition companies raise funds in an initial public offering with the aim of buying a private firm. The number of such vehicles that have listed in 2021 has reached 252 with gross proceeds of $80.8 billion according to SpacInsider. This has already surpassed the 248 SPACS launched in 2020, raising a total of $83bn.
Up until now the United States has seen a boom in SPAC listings, but numbers are growing in Europe, with Amsterdam gaining an edge over continental rivals as Brexit and an IPO boom have bolstered the Dutch side.
For instance, EFIC1’s filing follows the SPAC-listings announcements of Jean-Pierre Mustier, the former boss of the Italian bank UniCredit, and the Italian luxury-goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, both of whom are headed for Amsterdam, also aiming to buy fintech and other financial firms.
Vivendi, a French media group, plans to list Universal Music, its record label, in the city as well.
According to experts, the increasing popularity of the Dutch exchange was partly due to Britain’s exit from the single market on January 1, that resulted in its losing “equivalence” - a regulatory arrangement that would have allowed the City of London to trade relatively unhampered in European markets.
But also the fact that the focus of Euronext, the company that runs the Amsterdam exchanges, has been on building relationships with big and small tech companies all over Europe.
Other factors that have lately made the Dutch exchange a listing venue of choice include its regulation and governance framework, high-end internet infrastructure, as well as the fact that English is so widely spoken.
Nevertheless, while Amsterdam has emerged as the go-to destination for SPACS in Europe, the UK is trying hard to retain its crown. A Treasury review, produced by former EU financial services commissioner Lord Jonathan Hill, proposed changes to existing rules to make the London Stock Exchange (LSE) more viable to list SPACS.
Current LSE rules require trading suspension of SPACS when an acquisition is announced, and has acted as a ‘key deterrent’ for investors.
But to make SPACs and investment more attractive, Hill has urged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to develop ‘appropriate’ rules and guidance to protect shareholders, including specifying the information SPACs must disclose to the market as well as investor voting and redemption rights.