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World View, a maker of stratospheric balloons, will issue a $350 million SPAC

World View is going public; it is a company working on high-altitude balloons for Earth observation and tourism. In an effort to expand into what it terms “the stratosphere economy,” the firm said on Friday that it will combine with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Leo Holdings Corp. II in a transaction for $350 million.

The transaction, scheduled to finalise in the second quarter of this year, may net the merged business up to $121 million. This does not include the extra $75 million that might be raised via stock financing arrangements. However, as we’ve seen with several space SPACs in the past — most notably Virgin Orbit, which we highlighted earlier this week — an unanticipated number of redemptions may often substantially eat into that figure, bringing the actual amount closer to $100 million.

World View, situated in Tucson, Arizona, claims that the remote sensing balloons it launches into the stratosphere have many advantages over conventional satellites. World View claims that their Stratollites remote sensing balloon systems, which are capable of reaching heights of up to 29 kilometes (95,000 feet), will be useful across a variety of industries, from military to agriculture.

World View foresee more use for the balloons beyond that. The firm has also declared its plan to provide a balloon tourist service in 2021. According to World View, over 1,200 individuals have put down a $500 deposit to secure their spot in line for a high-altitude balloon ride, which costs $50,000 in total. A typical journey will take somewhere in the range of 6-8 hours.

According to Crunchbase, World View has successfully raised $48.9 million to far, with the most recent fundraising round ending in 2018. The business and Sierra Nevada Corp. announced their collaboration in November to operate ISR balloons for the military. In the same month, World View and Scepter Inc., an atmospheric monitoring business, announced a separate deal to track methane production in Texas’ Permian Basin.

Many privately held businesses now use SPACs as an alternative to an initial public offering (IPO) to get access to public markets and a substantial infusion of capital. Rocket Lab and Planet Labs are only two of the major businesses in the space industry that have executed SPAC deals in the previous two years. Space SPACs have generally underperformed, especially compared to traditional aerospace industries, with a few companies witnessing a severe decline in stock price. However, certain companies, like the two I just mentioned, have been doing very well on the public markets.