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SoftBank-backed sensor maker Innoviz to go public in SPAC deal with $1.4 bln valuation

DETROIT, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Innoviz Technologies, which makes sensors for self-driving vehicles and is backed by SoftBank, said on Friday it will go public through a reverse merger with blank-check company Collective Growth Corp in a deal valuing the startup at about $1.4 billion.

The deal will provide Innoviz with $350 million in gross proceeds - $150 million from Collective Growth and $200 million from private investors including another backer, auto supplier Magna International, as well as Antara Capital and Phoenix Insurance.

The merger with Collective Growth, a special-purpose acquisition company or SPAC, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, and Innoviz will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol ‘INVZ.’

A SPAC is a shell company that raises money through an initial public offering to buy an operating entity, typically within two years.

SPACs have emerged as a quick route to the stock market for companies, particularly auto technology firms, and have proven popular with investors seeking to echo Tesla Inc’s high stock valuation.

Other companies producing lidar sensors commonly used in vehicle automation that have signed deals with SPACs include Velodyne, Luminar Technologies and Aeva .

“This milestone is pivotal for our continued growth and the advancement of the autonomous vehicle industry as a whole. It requires significant investment of time and resources,” Innoviz Chief Executive Omer Keilaf said in a statement.

Lidar sensors, which use laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the car, are seen as essential by many automakers to allow higher levels of driver assistance right up to making them capable of self-driving.

Innoviz, which has a supply deal with BMW, started in 2016 in Israel and has raised $251 million to date. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Tom Brown)