When I write about new equity offerings in the weekly "Scouting the Latest IPOs" commentary, I don't mention offerings of blank-check companies. There's a reason: If I want to gamble, I'd rather play cards -- where I make my own decisions and know the rules of the game -- rather than risk my capital by giving it to someone who won't even disclose the company's strategy.
A blank-check company, sometimes called a special purchase acquisition company, or SPAC, is typically a development-stage company with either no specific business plan or a plan to engage in mergers and acquisitions with unidentified parties. Penny stock and warrants are usually issued in these speculative financings, which often go on to an inactive trading market. In many deals, the initial investment is supposed to be returned to investors if a merger isn't completed within 18 months. Investors are essentially placing their confidence in the managers of these companies and hoping for great returns.
Its stakes in blank-check companies are among the troubles rumored at Amaranth Capital, a $9.5 billion hedge fund whose returns are down about 35% this year because of speculative losses in natural gas investments. According to reports, the hedge fund holds multiple positions in SPACs, including Courtside Acquisition
Over the past several years, more than $2 billion has been invested in public offerings of blank-check companies, yet only a handful of them have completed a merger with an active business. The National Association of Securities Dealers began an investigation earlier this year to examine these transactions and the investment banks that underwrite them.
Don't give others carte blanche to spend your capital. Keeping your own checkbook closed when it comes to blank-check companies, and knowing whether your other investment vehicles do the same, will yield you a more stable financial plan.
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