Jean Pierre Mustier jokes that even he sometimes has to answer the phone at Pegasus Europe’s reception in his new scaled-down role. That did not stop the former UniCredit chief executive pulling off a successful initial public offering on Thursday. Raising €500m from investors including Bernard Arnault’s Financière Agache makes Pegasus the largest yet special purpose acquisition vehicle in Europe. Mustier and co-CEO Diego De Giorgi now just have to find the right company to buy.
Having spent years protecting incumbent banking businesses from upstarts, the two former banking heavyweights now seek a capital hungry financial disrupter as partner, from a short list of 25 names. These span across asset management, insurance and diversified financials. In its final form, his business could centre on alternative assets, insurtech, payments or banking software, commanding a valuation of up to €5bn post deal.
Mustier is not the only banking bigwig lending gravitas, expertise and investor pulling power to speculative Spac fundraisings. Former Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam leads the $345m US Spac Freedom Acquisition which listed in March. No surprise, it too seeks a disruptive technology growth company. Backers reportedly include Kering’s François-Henri Pinault. Former Commerzbank CEO Martin Blessing oversees another European fintech-focused Spac.
Surging stock markets and bubbly liquidity has already resulted in $79bn of Spac investment globally this year, surpassing the total for 2020. Almost all are US domiciled and focused, which works to Mustier’s advantage. Why the fintech focus? It is the most popular sector for continental venture capital investment, with an estimated $60bn market capitalisation of potential targets available, according to Barclays.
Having said this, there are signs that Spac mania in the US might have peaked. An index of SPACs has trailed the broader market since mid February. The challenge for the European ex-bankers is to differentiate themselves from their US peers.
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