Forbes, Chronicler of Wealthy and Powerful, Will Scrap Plan to Go Public via SPAC

Forbes, the wealth-obsessed business publication, has decided to call off a deal to go public through a special-purpose acquisition company, also known as a SPAC, amid cooling investor appetite for the once-popular financial instrument, two people with knowledge of the plans said.

The cancellation could be announced as early as this week, one of the people said.

The deal, announced in August, would have taken the company public at a $630 million valuation through a merger with Magnum Opus Acquisition, a SPAC based in Hong Kong. In February, Forbes said it had agreed to a $200 million investment from Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange, as part of the deal.

SPACs, also known as blank-check firms, are publicly traded shell companies that raise money with the express purpose of taking a private firm public. Investor enthusiasm around blank-check companies peaked early last year but deflated after a number of SPACs failed to live up to their promises to investors.

Regulators — including the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler — have heightened the scrutiny of SPACs, and shares of many companies that went public through blank-check firms have plummeted.

Forbes was one of several media companies that had hoped to tap the SPAC market to help fuel growth. But not all went ahead with deals, and some that did have struggled.

Axios earlier reported that the prospects for Forbes’s SPAC deal looked bleak.

Shares in BuzzFeed, which went public through a SPAC deal in December, have tumbled more than 50 percent. Vice’s efforts to go public through a SPAC stumbled as investors turned on the market, and the media company instead looked to raise more money from private investors. There is also hand-wringing in the media industry over the state of the advertising market, especially after Snap, the owner of Snapchat, said last week that its revenue and profit would be lower than expected this quarter.

Some SPACs are still hunting for media deals. Executives from Group Nine Media, a publishing company that was recently sold to Vox Media, last year started their own blank-check company aimed at consolidating the digital media sector.

Forbes has posted positive financial results since it agreed to be taken public by Magnum Opus, a sign that the canceled deal could be a reflection of the souring market for SPACs. In February, Forbes said it generated $94 million of revenue in the fourth quarter of last year, a 51 percent increase from a year earlier. It made $18 million in profit for the quarter, an increase of 80 percent from the year before.

Founded as a magazine in 1917, Forbes is known for its rankings of wealthy businesspeople. Last year, Forbes said it reached more than 150 million people with its journalism, events and marketing programs. The Forbes family sold a majority stake in the company to Integrated Whale Media Investments in 2014.

Forbes still publishes a print edition eight times a year in the United States, and it has 45 licensed local versions that cover 76 countries.

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