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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The SPAC surge continues unabated, with 10 new ones formed since Wednesday morning. And that's OK.

Between the lines: There are growing concerns that retail investors are about to get rolled, with smart sponsors taking advantage of dumb money.

  • To be sure, many of these deals will fail. SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies) are pulling venture capital forward, and venture capital is inherently speculative.
  • And regulators should watch closely for conflicts of interest, including if SPAC sponsors are having pre-IPO conversations with potential targets (which is not allowed).

Reasons for (relative) calm: Unlike traditional venture capital or equities investing, though, SPACs have numerous guardrails.

  • Some of them are structural. Redemption rights, IPO proceeds held in escrow via T-bills and the ability for unit-holders to rebuff a merger.
  • There also is pricing pressure from the small number of institutional investors that have come to dominate the PIPE market. For example, it's not uncommon for a SPAC to win a bake-off by offering the highest price, only to renegotiate down after the letter of intent is signed. Not because the SPAC sponsor thinks it over-bid, but because the big PIPE players do.
  • "Target companies hate when this happens, but they're in an exclusivity period once they've signed the LOI, so their only option is to negotiate or wait a while and start the whole thing over," a SPAC banker explains.

Normal market forces are also at work. For example, the SPAC buying Dyal Capital is now just trading at 4 cents above the offering price, reflecting concerns about if the deal can get done amidst the litigation. And, of course, there are short-sellers trumpeting their skepticism, like Muddy Waters yesterday unloading on SPAC'd XL Fleet.

The bottom line: It does feel like there's a SPAC bubble. But, as investing bubbles go, SPACs may be among the most benign.

Go deeper

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Smaller than expected "Justice for J6" rally met with large police presence

Police officers watch as demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A few hundred demonstrators were met by a heavy law enforcement presence on Saturday at the "Justice for J6" rally outside the fenced-off U.S. Capitol, AP reports.

The latest: Four people were arrested at the rally, including one person with a gun, one with a knife and two with outstanding warrants, per the U.S. Capitol Police.

DHS to increase deportation flights to Haiti from Del Rio

Migrants walk across the Rio Grande River carrying supplies back to a makeshift encampment under the international bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Acuña, Mexico. Officials are struggling to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation, forcing migrants to cross the Rio Grande several times per day for basic necessities. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Saturday announced plans to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti out of the small Texas border town Del Rio, starting as soon as Sunday.

Why it matters: Reports have emerged of more than 10,000 migrants, primarily from Haiti, crowded in a temporary camp under the international bridge in Del Rio. Hoping to find refuge in the United States, they've had to bear with filthy conditions and the scorching sun for days, per an NBC News affiliate.