Special Purpose Acquisition Companies are taking off, quite literally, although not all Spacs will reach space.
Their fascination with flight began when Spac-man and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya took space tourism venture Virgin Galactic public in 2019.
Spacs as the route to a public listing through a blank-cheque shell company really gained altitude in the second half of last year, and while automotive tech companies have been much in vogue, aviation has been turning on the afterburners this month.
Wheels Up, an online private jet booking platform, is set to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange by merging with a Spac, while this week, in an extension of the autotech theme, two flying taxi companies have been flagged down by investors.
Archer, which is trying to develop electric aircraft to transport urban commuters across cities, is combining with investment banker Ken Moelis’ $500m special purpose acquisition vehicle Atlas Crest at a $3.8bn valuation.
We’ve also discovered LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus are nearing a deal to merge their blank cheque company with Joby Aviation, valuing the flying taxi developer at about $5.7bn and leading to a listing on the NYSE.
While Archer has just struck a deal with United Airlines to supply air taxis and Joby has taken on Uber’s flying taxi arm Elevate, both are at early stages in their development and revenues are small.
Deloitte predicts the US “air mobility market” will begin deployment in 2025, reap $115bn in revenue by 2035, and create 280,000 jobs along the way. But experts fear flying taxis could suffer the fate of robotaxis on our roads and will be slower to get off the ground than expected.
1. Disney Plus adds 8m at ChristmasDisney said the pandemic knocked $2.6bn from its operating income in the most recent quarter, as its once-mighty theme parks suffered. However, its Disney Plus streaming service grew from 87m subscribers on December 2 to 95m a month later, helped by the Christmas Day premiere of Soul, a critically acclaimed Pixar film.
2. Biden adds chip shortage to agendaThe Biden administration has pledged to take immediate action to address a global shortage of semiconductors that has forced the closure of several US car plants. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said the administration was “identifying potential chokepoints in the supply chain” after coming under pressure from lawmakers, chip companies and car manufacturers over the shortages.
3. Coupang almost doubles revenues ahead of IPOSouth Korea’s largest ecommerce group revealed it had almost doubled its revenues in the past year, and narrowed its losses, ahead of what is likely to be the largest initial public offering by a foreign company in the US since Alibaba’s debut in 2014. Coupang is hoping for a market valuation of more than $50bn when it lists on the New York Stock Exchange.
4. Ribbit to the rescue of RobinhoodWhen Robinhood needed cash quickly last month in the GameStop stampede (the retailer’s shares were down to $49 today from $483 on January 28), it didn’t turn to its oldest or largest financial backer. The stock trading app called on Micky Malka, a Venezuelan venture capitalist known for his Rolodex in the heady world of fintech. Our VC correspondent Miles Kruppa has a profile of Malka and his Ribbit Capital.
5. Elon Musk is ‘the greatest’Elon Musk has outdone Steve Jobs in becoming a master of his own “reality distortion field” in convincing others to see the world the way he does, writes Richard Waters. “The Tesla chief has become a virtuoso of Twitter and memes, the new tools for shaping popular opinion.” John Thornhill has been looking at whether Amazon’s Jeff Bezos deserves to be seen as the greatest chief executive in tech history and decides his vote would go to Musk: “It is hard to beat someone whose portfolio includes Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City and Neuralink. CB Insights reckons he is disrupting eight industries.”
Will the current kitchen craze for bread makers, multi-cookers and air fryers last? asks John Gapper in a look at culinary gadget trends for FT House & Home. The new wave started in 2010, when the Instant Pot, an electronic pressure cooker, first appeared in North America — it soon became a cult among “Pothead” owners. Philips introduced its Airfryer, which uses convection to fry with less oil than deep fryers, the same year. The Ninja Foodi combines an air fryer with a pressure cooker and was one of the UK’s top-selling small appliances last year.