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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Grab on Thursday hopes to become the king of SPACs, no matter how uneasy have been some heads to wear that crown.

Driving the news: Grab, a Singapore-based "super app" maker, today will list on the Nasdaq, via a reverse merger with a SPAC formed by Altimeter Capital. It gives Grab a pro forma equity value of $39.6 billion, the richest price ever afforded in such a transaction.

  • Grab, which launched in 2012 as a ride-hail service before expanding into everything from delivery to investing, raised over $11 billion of private funding, including at a $15 billion valuation in late 2020.
  • It's also raised dedicated capital for its financial services arm, but Grab president Ming Maa downplayed the possibility of a carveout, during a conversation earlier this morning.

Big picture: Many big SPACs mergers have struggled in 2021.

  • Grab holds the top spot just ahead of the pending acquisition of MSP Recovery by Lionheart Acquisition Corporation II, which is trading below $10 per share.
  • United Wholesale Mortgages, which was the largest-ever SPAC deal when first struck, is valued below its $16.1 billion merger price.
  • UMW supplanted MultiPlan, whose post-merger travails we recently detailed.
  • And then there was Bill Ackman raising the largest-ever SPAC, but then failing to buy a stake in Universal Music and getting sued.
  • The shining exception is Lucid, the electric car company whose market cap closed yesterday in excess of $84 billion.

The bull case is that Grab is the sort of high-growth tech company that makes public markets swoon, as evidenced by SPAC unitholder redemptions of just 0.02%. Plus, super-apps are super sticky in places like Southeast Asia, in part because slower mobile broadband speeds discourage people from downloading multiple apps (or running them simultaneously).

  • This SPAC also has key structural differences from others, in that sponsor Altimeter has locked up its shares for three years.
  • "We wanted to align our lockup with the length of projections the company was putting forth," explains Altimeter partner Chris Conforti. "I hope that becomes a standard in the industry, and helps dampen some of the more unscrupulous parts of SPACs, where it's about getting quick cash."
  • Altimeter also led the $4 billion PIPE with a $750 million commitment.

The bear case includes unprofitability, mega-SPAC track records and North American unfamiliarity with super apps. Plus, Grab is diving into a public pool roiled by Omicron.

The bottom line: The 10 largest SPAC mergers have all occurred since the beginning of 2020, so Grab may not be the record-holder for long.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Dec 16, 2021 - Economy & Business

Shopping with a private currency

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Something rare is happening with regularity in the digital media world: all-stock acquisitions by private companies.

Why it matters: It's hard to negotiate a deal when you're paying in stock with limited liquidity and valuation uncertainty.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker