As I was looking through the new lows list in the newspaper, I stumbled upon WL Ross Holdings Corp (WLRH). Wilbur Ross is a very successful distressed investor so I was surprised to see a listed entity with his name on it.
Hedge funds like them (or used to like them) as they can buy them at a discount to the cash redemption value and vote down acquisitions or redeem their shares for a decent return, especially with leverage (plus the optionality).
We will provide our public stockholders with the opportunity to redeem all or a portion of their shares of our common stock upon the completion of our initial business combination at a per-share price, payable in cash, equal to the aggregate amount then on deposit in the trust account described below as of two business days prior to the consummation of our initial business combination, including interest (which interest shall be net of taxes payable) divided by the number of then outstanding shares of common stock that were sold as part of the units in this offering, which we refer to collectively as our public shares, subject to the limitations described herein. If we are unable to complete our business combination within 24 months from the closing of this offering, we will redeem 100% of the public shares at a per-share price, payable in cash, equal to the aggregate amount then on deposit in the trust account, including interest (less up to $50,000 of interest to pay dissolution expenses and which interest shall be net of taxes payable) divided by the number of then outstanding public shares, subject to applicable law and as further described herein.
We believe that our management team is well positioned to identify a value-oriented investment opportunity in the marketplace and that our contacts and transaction sources, ranging from owners and directors of private and public companies, private equity funds, investment bankers, attorneys, accountants and business brokers across various sectors will allow us to generate attractive acquisition opportunities. Our management team is led by Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, who has 17 years of experience in the private equity industry and 24 years of prior experience in the restructuring financial advisory industry. Over the course of his career, Mr. Ross and his team have invested in approximately 135 portfolio companies across four continents, deploying approximately $10 billion of invested capital. Mr. Ross is the only individual who has been elected to both the Private Equity Hall of Fame and the Turnaround Management Association Hall of Fame.Mr. Ross is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC, which we refer to throughout this prospectus as WL Ross, an affiliate of our sponsor. Mr. Ross was also formerly the Chief Executive Officer of WL Ross prior to stepping down from this role on April 30, 2014 to become its Chief Strategy Officer. Founded in 2000, WL Ross is a global distressed private equity firm with approximately $8 billion of assets under management as of December 31, 2013, across private equity, credit, infrastructure and mortgage funds. Mr. Ross and our management team will leverage the relationships of the investment professionals of WL Ross to identify and complete an initial business combination. Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading turnaround groups, WL Ross invests in and restructures financially distressed companies in industries in which the investment professionals of WL Ross have knowledge. WL Ross seeks niche opportunities in markets where it believes its knowledge, insight and experience offer an advantage in assessing and cultivating new investment opportunities. WL Ross has offices in the United States, China and Japan, and WL Ross’ current network of approximately 40 portfolio companies, which operate in over 10 industries and 12 countries across the globe, provide a broad network of relationships and market insights that we believe will help our management team source attractive value-oriented investment opportunities.Prior to founding WL Ross in 2000, Mr. Ross was the Executive Managing Director of the Restructuring Advisory Group of Rothschild, Inc., where he and his team advised various constituencies through bankruptcies and workouts around the world, assisting in restructuring in excess of $200 billion of liabilities. In 1997, Mr. Ross and his investment team organized their first private equity fund, Rothschild Recovery Fund L.P. In April 2000, Mr. Ross founded WL Ross and acquired from Rothschild Inc. its general and limited partner interests in Rothschild Recovery Fund L.P., which was renamed WLR Recovery Fund, L.P. Our executive officers, Stephen J. Toy and Wendy L. Teramoto have worked at WL Ross since its founding and Michael J. Gibbons has been with WL Ross for 12 years.
Some of the spectacular failures in SPACs have occured when they bought crappy companies (American Apparel), or companies that were simply not ready to be public (Crumbs?). This is why I would avoid venture-type SPACs.
Here is what WLRH is going to look for:
Investment CriteriaConsistent with this strategy, we have identified the following general criteria and guidelines that we believe are important in evaluating prospective target businesses, including value-oriented investment opportunities. We will use these criteria and guidelines in evaluating acquisition opportunities, but we may decide to enter into our initial business combination with a target business that does not meet these criteria and guidelines. We intend to seek to acquire companies that we believe:
• Are Well Positioned within Industries Undergoing a Period of Dislocation. Whole industries or sub-segments within industries routinely undergo periods of dislocation, often due to non-recurring macro-economic forces or disturbances, and our management team has a track record of contrarian investing in such industries and sectors, including banking institutions, basic building materials, financial services, metals and mining and transportation. We believe that the perceived risks inherent in these investment opportunities are often greater than the actual risks, and we believe that we are able to analyze and estimate the size of the actual risks through our diligence process. Within dislocated industries, we intend to target companies that have leading market shares, low-cost operations relative to peers or the ability to attain low-cost operations, defensible competitive characteristics or high barriers to entry, entrenched positions with customers and high potential returns on net assets where our capital and sponsorship can assist companies during periods of dislocation.
• Offer Opportunities to Create Investment Platforms for Consolidation or Growth. Our management team has an aggregate of over 70 years of experience creating platform investments and often consolidating meaningful portions of large industries. Mr. Ross and our management team have previously applied this investment strategy, creating horizontally and vertically integrated platforms, in industries such as steel, coal, automotive component parts and marine transportation. We intend to capitalize on their history of analyzing global macro-economic trends and industry-wide investment themes in the context of potentially creating investment platforms for consolidation or growth.
• Have Significant Situational or Structural Complexity. We believe that our management team has expertise undertaking complex transactions and providing flexible, long-term capital solutions, which often enable us to distinguish ourselves from other financial buyers. We believe that situational or structural complexity often hides compelling value that competitors may lack the time, inclination or ability to uncover. Our management team has historically capitalized on such investment situations, which have often taken the form of business, regulatory or legal complexity. We believe that successful private equity investing in complex special situations requires investment structuring expertise, which Mr. Ross and our management team have developed through their experience investing in approximately 135 portfolio companies. We intend to leverage the operational experience and financial acumen of our management team and the investment team of WL Ross to identify structurally complex opportunities where we believe we have the ability to unlock value for the benefit of our stockholders.
• Are Underperforming Their Potential Peak Operational and/or Financial Performance Capabilities. Companies underperform operationally and financially for various reasons, including due to cost mismanagement, weak relationships with organized labor groups, poorly strategized market positioning, capital investment misallocation, capital structure inefficiencies and ineffective management teams. We believe that given our management team’s experience with value-oriented investing, we are well-positioned to identify investment situations where additional capital investment, effective sponsorship, board of directors supervision and, often, a new management team, will result in improvements in operational and/or financial performance.
• Offer a Value Proposition that is Not Recognized by the Market. Our management team and the investment professionals of WL Ross typically conduct substantial due diligence with respect to potential acquisition targets, with a goal to uncover value that is unrecognized by the market and would allow us to invest in companies and buy assets at prices that we believe to be below intrinsic value. Our due diligence process typically involves an in-depth analysis of the target’s industry, including competitive positioning and barriers to entry; a strategic, operational and technical review; an analysis of downside protection and alternative channels through which we can realize value; a detailed historical and projected financial review focusing on revenue potential and earnings margins, which is done in concert with a stress test of projected financials and, often, a quality of earnings review; capital structure analysis; and an evaluation of a company’s management team and their financial incentives.
This is a pretty big SPAC, I think, with $500,250,000 in cash held in the trust account. Common stock outstanding subject to redemption is 47,789,319 shares. That’s a bit more than $10.00/share redemption value ($10.00/share is an estimate and not a guaranteed or fixed redemption amount). Included in the trust account is deferred underwriting commission of $18,309,150 which is to be paid upon the closing of a deal. Excluding that, you have $10.08/share in cash in the trust account.
Here’s an interesting twist on the deferred underwriting commission:
The underwriters have agreed to waive their rights to their deferred underwriting commission held in the trust account in the event we do not complete our initial business combination within 24 months from the closing of this offering and, in such event, such amounts will be included with the funds held in the trust account that will be available to fund the redemption of our public shares.
So if a deal is not closed within two years, this underwriting commission doesn’t have to be paid and will instead go to the public shareholders (shares offered in the IPO). That would be an extra $0.38/share. If none of the trust account cash is touched, the redemption value would be $10.46/share if a deal is not done. With the stock currently at $9.85/share, that implies a 6.2% return over two years (actually, 1.8 years through June 11, 2016); that’s 3.4% annualized return. With interest rates so low, you can see how this might not be such a bad idea.
If a hedge fund can get 7x leverage with funding at Libor+50 bps (which might amount to 70 bps funding cost today), then a hedge fund can earn 18.9%/year ((3.4% – 0.70%) x 7).
[ Correction after the fact: The above analysis is not correct, please see comments section; redemption value should be based on 50 mn shares, not 47.8 mn shares ]
Not bad at all in this environment. 7x leverage is usually for long / short positions, but since this position is basically against cash held in a trust, it may be doable. But I don’t know. Liquidity and other factors might make the economics not applicable here.
Think about that. They can earn 18.9%/year with optionality; if a nice deal happens, they get a nice pop.
Others would have to settle for 3.4%/year with possible upside. You can see why the Special Opportunities Fund folks like it; as a basket, it’s a reasonable proxy for cash with some upside potential.
This sort of basket approach has never been that interesting to me as you would need a lot of them to ‘pop’ for your returns to get interesting without leverage.
In this case, you only get that nice return if a deal doesn’t get done and the underwriting commission doesn’t get paid (and instead goes to the public, non-founder shares).
If a deal goes through and you redeem your shares for cash, then you wouldn’t get that extra $0.38/share; at this point you would get only $10.00 (or $10.08 according to my math, but I’m not sure what else is in the trust that I may not have accounted for). In that case, it’s only a 1.5%-2.3% return over 1.8 years. I’m assuming the cash will generate no interest income.
So of course, someone will just buy up a ton of shares and then make sure a deal doesn’t get done. To prevent that, they have this provision:
Limitation on redemption rights of stockholders holding more than 15% of the shares sold in this offering if we hold stockholder vote
Notwithstanding the foregoing redemption rights, if we seek stockholder approval of our initial business combination and we do not conduct redemptions in connection with our business combination pursuant to the tender offer rules, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation provides that a public stockholder, together with any affiliate of such stockholder or any other person with whom such stockholder is acting in concert or as a “group” (as defined under Section 13 of the Exchange Act), will be restricted from redeeming its shares with respect to more than an aggregate of 15% of the shares sold in this offering. We believe the restriction described above will discourage stockholders from accumulating large blocks of shares, and subsequent attempts by such holders to use their ability to redeem their shares as a means to force us or our management to purchase their shares at a significant premium to the then-current market price or on other undesirable terms. Absent this provision, a public stockholder holding more than an aggregate of 15% of the shares sold in this offering could threaten to exercise its redemption rights against a business combination if such holder’s shares are not purchased by us or our management at a premium to the then-current market price or on other undesirable terms. By limiting our stockholders’ ability to redeem to no more than 15% of the shares sold in this offering, we believe we will limit the ability of a small group of stockholders to unreasonably attempt to block our ability to complete our business combination, particularly in connection with a business combination with a target that requires as a closing condition that we have a minimum
Also, there are some more complicated issues that you have to think about, but the above is basically the gist of it.
The reason why I made this post is not because I am interested in SPACs or that this one has a particularly interesting structure; it’s because it is run by Wilbur Ross, a well-regarded distressed investor. I have known about him for a while and even doubled my money in International Coal a while back and have a very good impression of him. Of course, I don’t know him or understand him as well as, say, Buffett or Dimon. But still, he seems like a decent, straight-shooting dealmaker.
This would also be interesting if this entity became a platform for further acquisitions and not just a one-off deal situation. One of the bullet points in the investment criteria (Offer Opportunities to Create Investment Platforms for Consolidation or Growth) seems to suggest that this may be the case.
So anyway, this is not for everyone. I thought I would just make a quick post as it was interesting to me that there is an entity to invest with Ross with this SPAC twist today.
And for those market scaredy-cats, this is a 100% cash investment, so what is there to fear?! If you owned this you would wish for a crash, and as soon as possible too!