British used car dealer Cazoo is going public in the US via SPAC

Cazoo founder and CEO Alex Chesterman.CazooLONDON — Cazoo announced Monday that it will go public through a merger with billionaire investor Daniel Och’s special purpose acquisition company.Cazoo, founded just three years ago, is a used car marketplace based in the U.K. The company sells and delivers its cars in Britain and continental Europe. Its competitors range from Auto Trader to Carvana.The company said it would combine with AJAX I, a U.S. blank-check firm founded by Och, in a deal valuing the business at $7 billion. Founder Alex Chesterman will stay on as Cazoo’s CEO following the SPAC merger, while Och is joining the firm’s board.”This announcement is another major milestone in our continued drive to transform the way people buy cars across Europe,” Chesterman said in a statement Monday.”We have created the most comprehensive and fully integrated offering in the largest retail sector which currently has very low digital penetration.”What is a SPAC?SPACs are shell companies that are created with the sole purpose of raising funds to acquire an existing private company, so that the target firm can bypass the traditional initial public offering (IPO) process.They’ve become a hot investment vehicle on Wall Street, with SPACs in the U.S. having raised $87.9 billion so far in 2021, already exceeding the total issuance in all of last year.Once the deal closes, Cazoo will be traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, dealing a blow to London which is aiming to attract more high-growth tech companies to its stock exchange.Europe has largely missed out on the SPAC boom, so far. But there are growing signs of the trend emerging in the continent, with Amsterdam attracting a number of SPAC IPOs and London looking to relax stock listing rules to accommodate U.S.-structured blank-check companies.Cazoo is expected to raise $1.6 billion from the deal with AJAX I, including $805 million in a cash trust from the SPAC and a further $800 million from private investors.The latter is being led by AJAX’s sponsors and D1 Capital Partners, with additional backing from Altimeter, funds managed by BlackRock, Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global fund, Fidelity and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.Online shiftCazoo aims to fill an Amazon-shaped gap in the automotive industry. Online sales still account for a tiny slice of the overall market globally but are on the rise as e-commerce has gotten a boost from the coronavirus pandemic.Cazoo had an annual revenue run rate of more than $600 million in the first quarter. It expects sales to near $1 billion in 2021, quadrupling year-on-year. The company believes Europe’s used car market is worth $700 billion, with just 2% of sales taking place online.Used car sales, in particular, have gotten a boost from the pandemic. Carvana, which operates a similar model to Cazoo, has seen its share price increased fivefold in the last 12 months with investors viewing it as the “Amazon of cars.”

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