Wall Street's SPAC craze scales new heights with record filings

FILE PHOTO: A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) - Richard Branson and Barry Sternlicht were among more than two dozen investor groups that filed with U.S. regulators on Friday to raise new blank-check acquisition companies, setting a new record.

The 28 filings for new special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) underscore their growing appeal on Wall Street. SPACs raised a record $82 billion last year, and the trend has gathered further steam in the early weeks of 2021.

Overall, 144 SPACs have raised $45.7 billion so far this year, according to data from SPAC Research, with backers including high-profile investors, politicians and sports personalities.

Starwood Capital Group’s CEO Barry Sternlicht’s Jaws Juggernaut Acquisition Corp filed for an IPO of up to $200 million on Friday. Other notable investors that launched SPACS included serial entrepreneur and billionaire Richard Branson and former BuzzFeed Chairman Ken Lerer.

Friday’s filings count more than doubled a previous record of 13 deals on Feb. 5, SPAC Research said.

A SPAC is a shell company that raises money in an IPO to merge with a privately held company that then becomes publicly traded as a result.

SPACs have emerged as a popular IPO alternative for companies, providing a path to going public with less regulatory scrutiny and more certainty over the valuation that will be attained and funds that will be raised.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Joshua Franklin in Miami; Editing by Anil D’Silva