Flight De-SPACs Soar Above Space De-SPACs as Winds Change
by Nicholas Alan Clayton on 2023-10-23 at 3:35pm

SPACs have shot for the stars in multiple ways, but lately they have fared better when staying within the Earth’s atmosphere.

Twelve space ventures have gone public through SPACs since March 2021, demonstrating a firm link between the two industries. On the face of them, its a near perfect marriage as space companies have significant capital needs before their businesses are fully online and SPACs also provide an avenue for retail investors to get involved in the sector far earlier than would normally be possible.

But misfires both literal and figurative have vexed this generation of companies since those deals were completed. The crop overall is now trading at an median share price of just $1.71, or $0.75 once adjusted for stock splits.

Much of that poor performance can be chalked up to the general turn by investors away from growth stocks and towards profitable safe bets in an environment of high inflation and interest rates. Many of the companies have had operational stumbles as well, be they launch failures or simply a case of the market for their services not being as strong as initially projected.

There is little doubt that the market will make it to the stars eventually, and there could be a delayed affect of recent geopolitical tensions boosting demand for satellite and other spacial imaging services that is not yet being fully seen. But, there is little doubt that the lower-flying aviation de-SPACs have outperformed their cosmic counterparts of late.

The eight aviation firms that have completed SPAC transactions since 2020 last closed with a median price of $2.21 also adjusted for splits – although only one company, Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle‘s target Wheels Up (NYSE:UP) has so far engaged in one.

This is now a growing group with Integral 1 (NASDAQ:INTE) potentially adding Argentine airline FlyBondi to the tally via a deal announced last Friday. EG’s (NYSE:EGGF) aviation target FlyExclusive has similarly generated positive news of late, both expanding its private charter fleet and securing state funding for its flight training center.

Those that have already completed their deals may have been given more benefit of the doubt than their space peers because the sectors they cruise through are more fully developed technologically. But, the best performers are actually those that are still proving new designs.

Eve (NYSE:EVEX), Joby (NYSE:JOBY) and Archer (NYSE:ACHR) are each developing different designs for eVTOL aircraft that remain in the testing phse. They trade at a range of $4.87 to $7.85, with all three having completed their SPAC transactions (with Zanite, Reinvent and Atlas Crest) in 2022.

The real wind under their wings comes from the existing off-take agreements each has with strategic partners. But, unlike most EV de-SPACs, the solidity of these orders has yet to be tested.

Nonetheless, the market has clearly not blindly gotten behind the eVTOL movement as evidenced by the less encouraging price performance of peer eVTOL de-SPACs Lilium (NASDAQ:LILM) and Vertical Aerospace (NYSE:EVTL), which last closed at $0.62 and $1.09 having closed combinations with Qell and Broadstone in 2021.

All of this is subject to change of course and all are expected to make news in the coming quarters for better or worse. Joby just began manned test flights of its aircraft earlier this month, while Archer expects to open its aircraft factory in 2024 and Eve is rounding out the final parts of its design sourcing.

News can and does cut both ways for these companies. Eve continues to be the best performer of the group despite having not put any of its designs into the air yet.

Meanwhile, Vertical has been busy testing, but its stock has taken a taken a dive since disclosing a minor crash during testing in August.

The earliest any expects to fully hit commercialization is 2025, and the group has sported healthy enough balance sheets thus far to finance those timelines. In that sense, these firms may have gotten their deals done just in time before financing became more difficult.

Four of the five aviation companies that have pending deals were with SPACs that have already seen 73% or more of their trusts redeemed,  while the earlier group that already came to a close had a median redemption rate of 62%, well below the current average.


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