SPAC Merger under IFRS 3

SPAC Merger

Private operating companies seeking a ‘fast track’ stock exchange listing sometimes arrange to be acquired by a smaller listed company (sometimes described as a ‘shell’ company or Special Purpose Acquisition Company or SPAC that is also a ‘shell’ company, especially incorporated (and listed) to serve a reverse acquisition/SPAC Merger). This usually involves the listed company issuing its shares to the private company shareholders in exchange for their shares.

The listed company becomes the ‘legal parent’ of the operating company, which in turn becomes the ‘legal subsidiary’.

A transaction in which a company with substantial operations (‘operating company’) arranges to be acquired by a listed shell company should be analysed to determine if it is a business combination within the scope of IFRS 3.

US GAAP comparison

The registering of securities that are issued by a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) — A Form S-1 may be used for the initial registration and sale of shares of a SPAC, a newly formed company that will use the proceeds from the IPO to acquire a private operating company (which generally has not been identified at the time of the IPO). To complete the acquisition of a private operating company, the SPAC may file a proxy or registration statement. Within four days of the closing of the acquisition of the private operating company, the SPAC must file a “super Form 8-K” that includes all of the information required in a Form 10 registration statement of the private operating company.

Is the transaction a business combination?

Answering this question involves determining:

  • which company is the ‘accounting acquirer’ under IFRS 3, ie the company that obtains effective control over the other
  • whether or not the acquired company (ie the ‘accounting acquiree’ under IFRS 3) is a business.

In these transactions, the pre-combination shareholders of the operating company typically obtain a majority (controlling) interest, with the pre-combination shareholders of the listed shell company retaining a minority (non-controlling) interest (i.e. a SPAC Merger). This usually indicates that the operating company is the accounting acquirer.

If the listed company is the accounting acquiree, the next step is to determine whether it is a ‘business’ as defined in IFRS 3. In general, the listed company is not a business if its activities are limited to managing cash balances and filing obligations. Further analysis will be needed if the listed company undertakes other activities and holds other assets and liabilities. Determining whether the listed company is a business in these more complex situations typically requires judgement.

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M and A

M and A or Mergers and Acquisitions

in IFRS language Business Combinations.

1 Identifying a business combination

IFRS 3 refers to a ‘business combination’ rather than more commonly used phrases such as takeover, acquisition or merger because the objective is to encompass all the transactions in which an acquirer obtains control over an acquiree no matter how the transaction is structured. A business combination is defined as a transaction or other event in which an acquirer (an investor entity) obtains control of one or more businesses.

An entity’s purchase of a controlling interest in another unrelated operating entity will usually be a business combination (see Simple case – Straightforward business combination below). However, a business combination (M and A) may be structured, and an entity may obtain control of that structure, in a variety of ways.

Examples of business combinations structurings

Examples of ways an entity may obtain control

A business becomes the subsidiary of an acquirer

The entity transfers cash, cash equivalents or other assets(including net assets that constitute a business)

Net assets of one or more businesses are legally merged with an acquirer

The entity incurs liabilities

One combining entity transfers its net assets, or its owners transfer their equity interests, to another combining entity or its owners

The entity issues shares

The entity transfers more than one type of consideration, or

Two or more entities transfer their net assets, or the owners of those entities transfer their equity interests to a newly created entity, which in exchange issues shares, or

The entity does not transfer consideration and obtains control for example by contract alone Some examples of this:

  • ‘dual listed companies’ or ‘stapled entity structures’
  • acquiree repurchases a sufficient number of its own shares for an existing shareholder to obtain control
  • a condition in the shareholder agreement that prevents the majority shareholder exercising control of the entity has expired, or
  • a call option over a controlling interest that becomes exercisable.

A group of former owners of one of the combining entities obtains control of the combined entity, i.e. former owners, as a group, retain control of the entity they previously owned.

Therefore, identifying a business combination transaction requires the determination of whether:

  • what is acquired constitutes a ‘business’ as defined in IFRS3, and
  • control has been obtained.

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What is initial public offering

What is initial public offering

An Initial Public Offering (IPO) comprises of a privately owned business that wants access the public capital market through the sale of securities (shares in the before IPO privately owned business). Thereby, the business can raise monies more readily than by the retention of profits in order to also grow through acquiring other businesses. Other possible motivations for an IPO include the prestige of ownership of a public company or the desire of major shareholders to exit the company.

Back-door listings

Another way that entities may list is through a reverse restructure with an existing non-operating listed entity that has few assets or liabilities (i.e. a shell company) or a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC).

Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) are publicly traded companies formed for the sole purpose of raising capital through an IPO and using the IPO proceeds to acquire one or more unspecified businesses in the future.

The management team that forms the SPAC (the “sponsor”) forms the entity and funds the offering expenses in exchange for founder shares. There are various tax considerations and complexities that can have significant implications both during the SPAC formation process and down the road.

Under these circumstances where a private entity is ‘acquired’ by the listed entity, this is commonly referred to as aWhat is initial public offering back-door listing. Since the listed non-operating entity is not a business, the transaction is not a business combination. Normally such transactions are accounted for similar to reverse acquisitions.

However, because the accounting acquiree is not a business the transaction is considered a share-based payment. That is, the private entity is deemed to have issued shares to obtain control of the listed entity and to the extent their fair value exceeds the fair value of the listed entity’s identifiable net assets an expense will arise.

Disclosure of key judgements

Determining the appropriate accounting treatment of a reverse restructure with an existing non-operating listed entity that has few assets or liabilities (i.e. a shell company) or a SPAC often involves judgements. Therefore entities need to ensure that they comply with the disclosure requirements of IAS 1 Presentation of Financial Statements (‘IAS 1’), specifically paragraph 122.

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Business combination

A business combination is: a transaction or event in which acquirer obtains control over a business e.g. acquisition of shares or net assets, legal mergers,

Guidance in identifying the acquirer

Guidance in identifying the acquirer – The guidance in IFRS 10 Consolidated Financial Statements shall be used to identify the acquirer—the entity that obtains control of the acquiree.

If a business combination has occurred but applying the guidance in IFRS 10 does not clearly indicate which of the combining entities is the acquirer, the factors proviuded in here shall be considered in making that determination.

In a business combination effected primarily by transferring cash or other assets or by incurring liabilities, the acquirer is usually the entity that transfers the cash or other assets or incurs the liabilities.

In a business combination effected primarily by exchanging equity interests, the acquirer is usually the entity that issues its equity interests. However, … Read more