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Return of the SPAC: They’re Back and Bigger than Ever

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SPAC IPOs 2020

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The Briefing

  • Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) are shell companies created with the sole intent to raise capital and buy a private organization, or a stake in a company
  • In 2020, 248 new SPACs went public, an increase of more than 300% from 2019
  • 2020 was a record-breaking year for SPACs on many fronts. For instance, Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Tontine Holdings raised $4 billion—the largest raised in SPAC history

SPACs are Back and Bigger than Ever

In 2020, SPACs raised over $82 billion in capital. That’s more funds in one year than in the last 10 years combined.

But what exactly is a SPAC, and how have they changed over the years?

SPAC IPOs versus Traditional IPOs

SPAC IPOs are essentially the opposite of traditional IPOs.

In a traditional IPO, an established company goes public to raise funds. In contrast, SPAC IPOs involve a shell company that’s already raised capital and is looking to purchase an organization (or a stake in a company).

While traditional IPOs are seeking funds, SPAC IPOs already have the funds—what they’re seeking is an organization to attach themselves to.

SPACs, also known as “Blank Check” companies, provide a faster way to raise funds compared to traditional IPOs. That’s because the audit process for a SPAC is shorter, since they don’t have any financial statements to review.

A Brief History of SPACs

248 SPACs went public in 2020—189 more than in 2019.

2020 has by far been the biggest year for SPACs in the last few decades. Here’s a look at the number of SPAC IPOs over the last 15 years, along with their average size:

Year# of SPAC IPOsAverage IPO Size (M)
200528$75.5
200637$91.5
200766$183.2
200817$226.0
20091$36.0
20107$71.8
201116$69.4
20129$54.5
201310$144.7
201412$145.8
201520$195.1
201613$269.2
201734$295.5
201846$233.7
201959$230.5
2020248$334.4

SPACs had a brief moment in 2007 prior to the financial crisis, but by 2009 they had lost traction—that year, only one SPAC IPO went public. However, in the last few years, SPACs have picked up momentum again.

And in 2020, the use of this curious go-public vehicle has skyrocketed.

The New and Improved SPACs of 2020

Historically, SPACs haven’t had the highest returns for investors. In fact, they were once considered a last resort when it came to raising capital.

But in the last few years, SPACs have ramped up their game. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, there have been three significant changes:

  1. Improved track record
    In 2020, more than 90% of SPAC deals closed. That’s a notable improvement compared to previous years—before 2015, at least 20% of SPACs liquidated.
  2. Bigger in size
    The average SPAC trust size is 5x larger than it was a decade ago.
  3. Well-known participants
    Some high-profile investors have jumped on the SPAC-train this year, which has helped generate hype.

While some experts are expecting the popularity of the SPAC to continue in 2021, it’s still early days. So it’s hard to know for certain if SPACs are back for the long-haul.

»If you found this article interesting, you might enjoy this full-length post on traditional IPOs: The World’s Largest IPOs Adjusted For Inflation

Where does this data come from?

Source: SPAC Data
Details: All US-listed SPACs are included in the data set. Figures as of Dec 30, 2020

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Datastream

Visualizing Earth’s Global Ice Loss Between 1994-2017

In just over two decades, the planet has seen 28 trillion tonnes in global ice loss. 58% of this ice loss occurred in the Northern Hemisphere.

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The Briefing

  • Due to global warming, 28 trillion tonnes of ice have melted in just over two decades
  • Over half (58%) of this global ice loss occurred in the Northern Hemisphere

Visualizing Earth’s Global Ice Loss Between 1994-2017

Nearly 70% of the Earth’s freshwater is locked up in glaciers and ice caps, ground ice, and permafrost. However, this ice is melting at an unprecedented rate.

Based on data from a new scientific survey, this visualization reveals that 28 trillion tonnes of Earth’s ice has been lost between 1994 and 2017.

How Much Ice Is Being Lost Exactly?

Figures at such scales can be difficult to wrap our heads around. For the record, one billion tonnes of water is equal to 400,000 Olympic swimming pools.

It’s then a bit easier to comprehend why, when multiplied tens of thousands of times, this much melted ice—specifically, grounded ice—has resulted in global sea levels rising by 34.6mm on average.

Cryosphere categoryIce typeChange (1994-2017)
Arctic sea iceFloating7.6 trillion tonnes
Antarctic ice shelvesGrounded6.5 trillion tonnes
Mountain glaciersGrounded6.1 trillion tonnes
Greenland ice sheetGrounded3.8 trillion tonnes
Antarctic ice sheetGrounded2.5 trillion tonnes
Southern Ocean sea iceFloating0.9 trillion tonnes

Over half (58%) of the ice loss occurred in the Northern Hemisphere, from Arctic sea ice and also grounded ice previously trapped in the Greenland ice sheet.

In fact, the rate of ice loss has risen from 0.8 trillion tonnes to 1.2 trillion tonnes per year, an increase of 57% since the 1990s.

The Impacts of the Ice Meltdown

Rapidly disappearing sea ice has severe impacts on the environment, both in the short and long term:

  • Wildlife habitat loss
  • Coastal erosion
  • Changing ocean currents
  • Extreme temperatures

While rising temperatures are behind most of this historical global ice loss, it’s worth noting that lower levels of ice lead to a positive feedback loop. Less ice means less of the sun’s heat is reflected away from the Earth, instead being absorbed back and further amplifying the global warming effect.

>>Like this? Then you might like this article on Mapping Territorial Claims in Antarctica

Where does this data come from?

Source: Slater, T. et al. “Review article: Earth’s ice imbalance”, The Cryosphere (2021)
Notes: Data from the scientific survey is based on satellite observations and numerical models. The metric measure of a “tonne” (1,000kg) has been used throughout for accuracy.

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Coinbase Experiences Brisk User Growth Ahead of IPO

Coinbase, America’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, saw a 117% growth in transacting users from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021.

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coinbase user growth

The Briefing

  • Coinbase is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S.
  • The company added 3.3 million transacting users in Q1 2021 – a 117% increase
  • $133 billion in assets were added to the platform, totalling $223 billion in Q1 2021

Coinbase Experiences Brisk User Growth Ahead of IPO

A week before its initial public offering (IPO), Coinbase reported significant user growth for the first quarter of 2021.

In a report released on April 6, the cryptocurrency exchange claimed to have an estimated 56 million verified customers in Q1 2021—that’s an additional 13 million since Q4 2020.

What is Coinbase?

Launched in 2012, Coinbase is the largest consumer-facing cryptocurrency exchange in America.

The company offers a variety of products, such as an advanced trading platform, crypto wallets for retail investors, savings accounts for institutions, and even its own stablecoin that’s backed by the U.S. dollar.

A Surge in Monthly Users and Assets

In Q1 2021, Coinbase saw a 117% increase in transacting users compared to Q4 2020, from 2.8 million to 6.1 million. That’s the highest jump in users in the last three years:

QuarterMonthly Transacting Users% Change
Q1 20182,700,000--
Q2 20181,200,000-55.5%
Q3 2018920,000-23.3%
Q4 2018850,000-7.6%
Q1 2019800,000-5.9%
Q2 20191,300,00062.5%
Q3 20191,200,000-7.7%
Q4 20191,000,000-16.7%
Q1 20201,300,00030.0%
Q2 20201,500,00015.4%
Q3 20202,100,00040.0%
Q4 20202,800,00033.3%
Q1 20216,100,000117.9%

In addition to its growing user base, the company also reported a 147.8% uptick in assets on the platform in the last quarter, from $90 billion to $223 billion.

QuarterAssets Held on Coinbase% Change
Q1 2018$13 billion--
Q2 201812.9 billion-0.8%
Q3 201811 billion-14.7%
Q4 2018$7 billion-36.4%
Q1 2019$8 billion14.3%
Q2 2019$21 billion162.5%
Q3 2019$17 billion-19.0%
Q4 2019$17 billion--
Q1 2020$17 billion--
Q2 2020$26 billion52.9%
Q3 2020$36 billion38.5%
Q4 2020$90 billion150.0%
Q1 2021$223 billion147.8%

Industry experts believe this strong start to the year is a good indicator of the company’s future profit potential.

For instance, the investment bank DA Davidson raised Coinbase’s share price target from $195 to $440 after seeing the company’s Q1 results.

>> Liked this? Take a deeper dive into institutional trading volume on Coinbase.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Company filings via The Block

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