Sir Richard Branson is to launch his first European blank cheque company as the Virgin Group tycoon continues to tap public market investors to find takeover targets.
Sky News has learnt that Virgin Group is drawing up detailed plans to list a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in Amsterdam in the coming months.
Sir Richard’s business is working with bankers on a listing, which could be announced as soon as the first quarter of 2022, according to insiders.
The news may be interpreted as a snub to the London market given that Virgin Group is based in the UK and that British regulators have reformed listing rules to make it easier to pursue SPAC deals in London.
One source said the Amsterdam-listed vehicle would probably seek to raise an initial sum of around €200m, although the final details have yet to be determined.
SPACs, which are listed pools of blind capital raised from investors to pursue a merger with a private company, have been an engine of global dealmaking activity for the last two years, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of corporate tie-ups.
There have, however, been signs of investor apathy, with many fundraisings struggling and a number of high-profile companies seeing their shares plunge after their SPAC mergers have been completed.
Sir Richard has become a prolific user of SPACs, taking both his space tourism venture Virgin Galactic and commercial satellite operation Virgin Orbit public through mergers with blank cheque companies.
Virgin Orbit began trading late last year, and its chief executive, Dan Hart, will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange later on Friday.
Sir Richard will be absent from the ceremony after disclosing this week that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Virgin Galactic’s soaring valuation has enabled Sir Richard to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to prop up his other travel and leisure businesses.
He has pumped a substantial sum into Virgin Atlantic Airways to help it survive the first two years of the pandemic, with Virgin-branded cruise and health and fitness businesses also requiring additional financial support.
Virgin has also launched two US SPACs of its own, and used them to merge with 23andMe, a consumer research and genetics company, and Grove Collaborative, a manufacturer of sustainable consumer products.
Bankers expect Virgin to launch further blank cheque companies in the US.
A spokeswoman for Virgin declined to comment.