SUSPEND YOUR disbelief. That seems to be what modern financial markets require of investors. GameStop, a tiny and humble retailer that was swept up in an online-trading mania earlier this year, is still worth $11 bn. Digital animations are being sold through online tokens for millions of dollars. The stock of Dogecoin, a digital currency that was until recently considered to be a parody, is valued at almost $50 bn. Crypto, meme-stocks, NFTs—each new financial fashion seems to bring its own termi-nology and the whiff of absurdity.
别不信——这句话似乎是现代金融市场对投资者提出的要求。今年早些时候，一家不起眼的小零售商游戏驿站（GameStop）卷入了一场线上交易狂潮，目前其市值仍高达 110 亿美元。数字动画在线上发售，接受数字代币支付，售价达数百万美元。数字货币狗狗币（Dogecoin）直到最近还被视为一种戏谑的模仿品，但其总市值接近 500 亿美元。加密货币、散户神股、NFT（非同质化代币）——每一种金融时髦品似乎都自带一套术语和一丝荒谬气息。
Many investors would add to that list special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). They are an alternative way of taking firms public that bypasses the cumbersome initial public offering (IPO) process. The pace of deals has been furious. Between January and April some $100 bn was raised through SPACs, many of which are now hunting for firms to buy. Some 84 companies have announced they will float via SPAC mergers so far in 2021, versus 123 using IPOs. The SPAC trend is a giant experiment with a different way to take firms public. And it is also a test of the firms involved, most of which have either been hidden away in private markets for years, or are so nascent that they are more concepts than companies.
许多投资者会把 SPAC（特殊目的收购公司）也归于此类。这是公司上市的另一种途径，可以绕过繁琐的 IPO 程序。这类交易发展迅猛。今年 1 至 4 月，SPAC 已经筹集了约 1000 亿美元的资金，其中许多正在寻找收购对象。今年以来已有 84 家公司宣布将通过 SPAC 合并上市，而宣布将使用 IPO 的有 123 家。大行其道的 SPAC 是一场巨大的实验，为公司上市另辟蹊径。这对相关公司而言也是一场考验，其中大多数公司要么已在私人市场上隐匿多年，要么才刚刚起步，准确地说还只是概念而非公司。
So just how mad is the SPAC frenzy? At first glance, pretty mad. This boom has occurred in spite of the dodgy track record of some firms that have gone public in this way in the past. Regulators grumble that the process is easy to manipulate. The executives who run SPACs frequently take a whopping slice of equity for themselves, to the detriment of the outside investors who usually stump up far more cash. Often they make fanciful promises. The Economist has totted up the management forecasts of a panel of 50 recent or pending SPAC deals. Around half of the firms are loss-making. In aggregate the 50 firms generate about $1 bn of annual gross operating profits today but have forecast to investors that this will rise to a miraculous $15 bn by 2023. There are pockets of extreme delusion. Of the eight electric-vehicle (EV) firms ushered into public markets by SPACs in 2020, five expect to progress from making no revenues to $10 bn-worth in under five years. Not even Google, one of the most successful firms in history, pulled that off. It took it eight years.
那么这轮 SPAC 热到底有多疯狂？乍一看，那可是非常疯狂。尽管过去以这种方式上市的公司有一些不光彩的记录，但这股热潮还是兴起了。监管机构抱怨这种上市程序很容易被操纵。运营 SPAC 的高管经常给自己分配大量股权，损害了外部投资者的利益，后者通常得掏出多得多的现金。他们也常常做出不切实际的承诺。本刊汇总了 50 宗近期完成或进行中的 SPAC 交易的管理层预测。大约一半的公司处于亏损状态。50 家公司目前每年运营毛利总计约为 10 亿美元，但它们向投资者预测，到 2023 年，这一数字将奇迹般地升至 150 亿美元。其中一些预测纯属异想天开。在 2020 年通过 SPAC 上市的八家电动汽车公司中，有五家预计自己将在五年内从颗粒无收发展到进账百亿。即便是历史上最成功的公司之一谷歌都没能做到这一点——它花了八年。
Yet while the overall figures look wild, the good news is that the SPAC boom is becoming more discerning. The market capitalisation of Virgin Galactic, a space-technology company, has fallen from $13 bn to $5 bn since February. Shares in Opendoor, a real-estate firm, have halved. Investors who funded the VectoIQ Acquisition corporation saw their money grow seven-fold after it merged with Nikola, an electric-truck maker, in June 2020. But shares in the firm have since dropped back below its debut price. Investors have cooled on SPACs that are still hunting for targets. Bill Ackman, a Wall Street tycoon, has a $4 bn vehicle that was trading at a 50% premium to its cash value in February, in anticipation of it doing a deal that would be instant alchemy. The premium has since fallen to just 17%.
不过，尽管总体数据看起来已经失控，好消息是这轮 SPAC 热正在变得更加有辨别力。自 2 月以来，太空技术公司维珍银河（Virgin Galactic）的市值已从 130 亿美元跌至 50 亿美元。房地产公司 Opendoor 的股价已经腰斩。VectoIQ Acquisition 去年 6 月与电动卡车制造商 Nikola 合并后股价上涨了七倍，但之后一路跌破发行价。对于仍在物色目标的 SPAC，投资者的热情已经冷却下来。华尔街大亨比尔・阿克曼（Bill Ackman）的一家 40 亿美元的 SPAC 在 2 月的交易价格比其现金价值高出 50%，市场期待着他能达成一笔点石成金的交易。此后，溢价已经缩小至只有 17%。
超越 IPO，SPAC 狂潮揭秘
今年前两个月，在美国通过 SPAC 空壳上市的募资金额超越传统 IPO。伦敦、香港、新加坡正在研究是否拥抱 SPAC，孙正义、李泽楷也参与其中，芒格却对此作出警告
There are other signs of market discipline in action. Short interest is growing as sceptical investors bet against SPACs and the firms they have backed. After a spectacular start to the year just $2.5 bn has been raised through new SPACs since March 29 th, as fund managers grow Less giddy and warier of writing blank cheques. This scepticism is a healthy sign of the market maturing.
还有其他迹象表明市场自律正在发挥作用。心存疑虑的投资者看空 SPAC 及其支持的公司，做空的比例正在增加。SPAC 在年初的表现令人瞩目，但 3 月 29 日以来，随着基金经理们头脑冷静下来，对开出空白支票更加谨慎，通过新的 SPAC 筹集到的资金仅有 25 亿美元。这种怀疑态度是市场走向成熟的健康迹象。
Institutional investors should use their clout to improve the process. That means making sure that the slice of shares that SPAC creators are awarded is not excessive, insisting managers’ pay is tied to delivering on the forecasts they make, and applying a discount to firms that give outside investors limited voting rights. Not all companies that go public through SPACs will succeed, but having an alternative way to float companies is welcome. Still, if anyone comes up with a SPAC for a firm selling NFTs in EVs, run for the hills.
机构投资者应该利用他们的影响力来改进 SPAC 的流程。具体地说就是确保 SPAC 创始人不会获得过多股份，坚持管理层的薪酬水平与他们实现预测的程度挂钩，并且给那些给予外部投资者有限投票权的公司的股价打折扣。通过 SPAC 上市的公司并不一定都能成功，但能多一种上市方式总是好事。不过，如果有人发起一个 SPAC，目标公司发行用电动汽车充当的 NFT，那还是避之则吉吧。