Stock Groups

Activist investors are hunting targets in the SPAC market, but battles won’t be easy to win


Daniel Loeb is the founder and chief executive of Third Point LLC

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The SPAC Market, which was once hot, has become a breeding ground for activists investors looking to make changes and gain profit from companies that are not performing well.

In the last two years, a record number of companies have gone public by merging or being acquired by special-purpose acquisition companies. This is a quick and easy way to get an IPO. Experts in the industry believe that these businesses, which are new to public markets and frequently underperforming companies, could be more susceptible to activist involvement.

“It makes sense that they would look at SPACs because oftentimes when the de-SPAC M&A happens, the stock would drop 10% or 15% even in the best of cases,” said Perrie Weiner, partner at Baker McKenzie LLP. There might be buy opportunities, and activist might do well. SPACs can take some time getting off the ground. Sometimes the management teams don’t do a good enough job.

SPACs’ performance after merging has been poor. This is a proprietary CNBC SPAC Post Deal IndexSPACs which have completed mergers with their target companies and gone public has seen a drop of nearly 30% in the last year, and more than 50% compared to a year earlier.

Dan Loeb earned 6.4% last month. Cano HealthThe senior-care facility operator merged with Barry Sternlicht-backed Jaws Acquisition Corp. Third Point’s Loeb wants Cano to sell as the investors are “largely unfavorable” about SPACs.

Loeb’s actions were the first to target a public company through an SPAC. However, many investors expect much more.

“We know there are several activists evaluating potential targets now in almost every sector,” said Bruce Goldfarb, president and CEO of Okapi Partners, a corporate governance advisory firm. Active investors are evaluating targets before the nomination window opens for next year’s meeting of directors.

The SPAC boom provided activists with new targets, but it may not prove easy to make changes to the space because of the special management and board structure.

Goldfarb stated that the SPAC sponsors are close to the management. They also have around 20% ownership, giving them substantial voting power.

Additionally, the voting power of many new companies is different, which makes it more difficult for investors to affect the outcome of the election. He also said that most companies with staggered boards aren’t up for election simultaneously.

Goldfarb stated that activists are more likely to target SPAC-listed companies, particularly if they continue underperforming. However it is not like shooting fish in the barrel.