If you were offered a chance to invest in a company that would never make any money from operations, you'd probably give it a pass. But that might be a big mistake -- at least, if the company in question is a SPAC.

If you aren't familiar, special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) are essentially an inversion of the traditional initial public offering (IPO) process, where companies issue shares on the public market to raise capital. With a SPAC, investors make a shell company with a nest egg of cash, then take it public to raise even more. Next, the SPAC merges with a private company that doesn't want to go through the hassle of assembling the paperwork for an IPO, thereby making a new and publicly traded entity. If everything goes according to plan, the original investors get paid handsomely, and the SPAC's shareholders get equity in the new and cash-rich entity.

SPACs aren't a new concept, but they're becoming quite popular, and they can be very lucrative, even for retail investors. Let's take a look at two SPACs that might reward their shareholders in 2021.

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1. GigCapital2

GigCapital2 (NYSE:GIX) was formed with the intention of merging with a technology, media, or telecommunications company. As of late November, it had plans to merge with two companies: UpHealth and Cloudbreak Health. The resulting company will provide telehealth and integrated care management services, including digital pharmacies as well as behavioral health. It'll be listed on the NYSE under the ticker UPH.

UpHealth is positioned to compete in a dizzying number of healthcare markets, and it's hard to see how it could beat some of the entrenched competitors it'll be facing. Nonetheless, the company is growing like wildfire as a result of intense demand for healthcare during the pandemic. UpHealth estimated that by the end of 2020 it would make $115 million in revenue, and by 2022, it estimates that this revenue will triple. That's great news for GigCapital2 investors, especially because UpHealth is already earnings-positive.

Investors should keep a close eye on GigCapital2. The deal with UpHealth hasn't closed yet, and shareholders recently approved a resolution to extend the deadline for finalizing its merger to March 10 from its original date of Dec. 10, 2020. The major details of the transaction probably won't change in a significant way, but items like the transaction cost and leftover cash proceeds might, which could influence your decision to invest.

2. Social Capital Hedosophia III

While its merger has since closed, Social Capital Hedosophia III (NYSE:IPOC) was originally formed with the intention of combining with a technology company outside the U.S. In October, the software-enabled medical insurance company Clover Health announced that it would go public via a merger with Social Capital. The SPAC's merger concluded at the end of last week, which should certainly be a major catalyst for growth.

Social Capital's shareholders weighed in on the merger on Jan. 6, giving it the final go-ahead. The transaction closed the next day, and on Jan. 8, the newly public Clover Health was listed on the NASDAQ under the ticker CLOV. Social Capital shareholders saw their shares converted on a one-to-one basis, and Clover Health's life as a public stock began.

The deal is expected to leave Clover with as much as $1.2 billion in cash proceeds, not to mention an enterprise value of $3.7 billion. While it isn't possible to invest in Social Capital's SPAC any longer, CLOV will be worth keeping an eye on for the rest of the year.

It claims to be the fastest-growing insurance provider for Medicare Advantage patients, expanding its membership base at an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27% over the last three years. And, while it won't be profitable anytime soon, its revenue from premiums is growing rapidly. If its margins grow in due time, it could well become a leading competitor in the Medicare Advantage market. Investors should watch its first few quarterly earnings reports closely to see whether management is making good use of the funds from the merger, and then act accordingly.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.