SPAC linked to Trump's venture outperforms others in sector

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Shares of the blank-check acquisition firm that agreed to merge with former President Donald Trump's social media venture have outperformed every other special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), despite the regulatory risks facing the deal and investors now snubbing the vast majority of such vehicles.

Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC.O), which inked an $875 million deal in October to merge with Trump Media & Technology Group Corp (TMTG), currently ranks as the best performing SPAC stock ever, according to SPAC Research.

Reuters Graphics

For an interactive graphic, click here:

Digital World's shares ended trading at $73.12 on Friday, way above their $10 initial public offering price. This infers a valuation on the combined entity of close to $13 billion, including debt.

This is despite TMTG not having rolled out its social media app yet and the regulatory risks facing the deal. Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren asked Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler last month to investigate the planned merger for potential violations of securities laws around disclosure.

The SEC has declined to comment on whether it will take any action. Digital World disclosed last month it has fielded enquiries from the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), without providing details on their nature.

The financial underperformance of most SPACs makes Digital World's stock rally, driven by Trump supporters and retail investors, all the more notable.

Moreover, DWAC's share performance has boosted the average trading price of all 114 SPACs that have announced deals that are yet to close. Excluding DWAC, the average SPAC is currently trading at $9.88 a share, below the average trust value of about $10.05, according to SPAC Research.

According to Jay Ritter, a professor at the University of Florida, SPACS on an average have underperformed against the broader market by 25% during the past decade. Many of these deals' bullish financial projections have failed to come to pass.

"DeSPACs have continued to give negative average returns in a rising market. This pattern has continued in 2021," Ritter said.

If regulators let the deal go through, Digital World shareholders are all but certain to vote for it given the stock's performance. Digital World expects to issue a proxy statement with details on the deal in February, laying the ground for the vote to be held in the following weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) App Store currently lists Feb. 21 as the date that Trump's new social media app, Truth Social, will be available to download.

Digital World CEO Patrick Orlando and other SPAC insiders paid $11.8 million to receive founder and placement shares in the SPAC that are now worth roughly $620 million, according to regulatory filings and Reuters calculations.

Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Krystal Hu in New York Graphics by Niket Nishant

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Anirban Sen is the Editor in Charge for U.S. M&A at Reuters in New York, where he leads the coverage of the biggest deals. After starting with Reuters in Bangalore in 2009, Anirban left in 2013 to work as a technology deals reporter in several leading business news outlets in India, including The Economic Times and Mint. Anirban rejoined Reuters in 2019 as Editor in Charge, Finance to lead a team of reporters, covering everything from investment banking to venture capital. Anirban holds a history degree from Jadavpur University and a post-graduate diploma in journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media. Contact:+1 (646) 705 9409