BuzzFeed goes public on Monday through a merger with a Specialized Share Acquisition Company (SPAC), which is worth about $ 1.5 billion. That’s less than the $ 1.7 billion reportedly cost the digital media group when NBCUniversal invested in it a few years ago.
But the deal makes BuzzFeed a public company, something many of its smaller competitors have failed to achieve. Taking BuzzFeed to the stock market will test others, like Vice and Vox, who are considering a similar path.
As BuzzFeed CEO John Peretti said in the DealBook newsletter, the SPAC market has “turned upside down” since BuzzFeed first closed the deal. SPAC’s deals kicked off last summer amid high ratings that attracted digital media companies (among many others). But as SPACs went out of style, many investors have asked for their money back before the merger, a feature of financial instruments that go public thanks to the promise to determine the purpose of the acquisition at a later date.
The growing number of buybacks from investors has left SPAC’s merger partners with less money than anticipated. Peretti said BuzzFeed, which received $ 16 million from the SPAC merger instead of the more than $ 250 million raised by the company prior to the deal, structured the deal to accommodate that change, including a $ 150 million convertible bond.
“I don’t care how we go public,” said Mr. Peretti. “Once we saw that we got through this market – even though the market was cold – it was just a means of going to market.” As a listed company, BuzzFeed plans to buy competitors in an industry where scale is critical. As part of the SPAC deal, BuzzFeed announced the acquisition of the sports and entertainment publishing company Complex, adding to the deal to acquire the Huffington Post last November.
Ecommerce is a key part of BuzzFeed’s growth plan. Because many of his competitors are hosting content on a pay-per-view basis, Peretti said it is possible “to be the place to go to the general public.” He sees other opportunities to accelerate BuzzFeed’s growth, such as its shopping site, which sells products directly to consumers, including through streaming video shows.