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STOCKHOLM - "I get an email almost every morning from some SPAC seller telling me to do a SPAC with them," said Johnny Boufarhat, CEO of Hopin, a virtual events platform. "It's interesting, but it also doesn't make sense for us."
Instead, Boufarhat said he wants his London-based company, which is valued at $5.65 billion, to be ready for a traditional initial public offering (IPO) later this year or in 2022.
Hopin is one of several leading European startups, also including Europe's most valuable fintech startup Klarna, that told Reuters they are steering clear of SPACs, or special-purpose acquisition companies, the hot new method of floating a company that has taken the American tech world by storm.
Their caution, driven by fears over heavy costs and regulation, underscores the potentially risky nature of this innovative form of financial alchemy, although bankers said the market was in its infancy and much could change in the future.
There have only been 10 SPAC listings in Europe in 2020 and 2021, with a total value of about $1.3 billion - figures dwarfed by the United States where 522 such listings have brought in over $300 billion, according to data compiled for Reuters by Refinitiv.
SPACs are shell corporations that list on stock exchanges and then merge with an existing company to take that target public without it going through the conventional IPO process.
Such deals have emerged as a form of public market venture capital for some startups that have struggled to raise funds through traditional routes. But they can carry a heavy cost, typically 20% of the equity of the acquired company - which goes to the sponsors, or promoters, of the deal.
European reluctance among both companies and investors partly reflects the relative maturity of the region's tech startups before they go public, compared with U.S. counterparts, according to Reuters interviews with more than 20 entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers and bankers.
For example several "unicorns" valued at over $1 billion, such as Swedish fintech firms Klarna and Trustly and London-based Wise, have years of operating history and healthy financials with little incentive to bear the extra costs of a SPAC deal.
The average age of venture capital-backed startups going public last year was 10.5 years in Europe, nearly double that of the U.S. ones, according to data from Refinitiv.
'NO ONE HAS CONVINCED ME'
Klarna, founded in 2005, told Reuters it aimed to list late this year or more likely in early 2022 and favoured an IPO, rather than a SPAC.
"No one has yet convinced me about why that would be a preferential route," Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said.
Two sources close to Trustly said the 13-year-old company would likely go public later this year via a traditional IPO. Money transfer startup Wise, launched in 2011 and formerly TransferWise, is also not keen on a SPAC deal and wants to IPO in London this year, according to a person familiar with the matter.