SPACs raised billions. As mergers dry up, we follow the money

American capitalism has a special reverence for large numbers. They can frighten as debt or reassure as backstops. The $260bn raised by special-purpose acquisition companies (spacs) since the start of 2020 lacks the multitrillion-dollar aura of federal debt or America’s pandemic stimulus. It is nevertheless big enough to have become a defining symbol of recent market mania.

spacs used to be a curious capital-markets sideshow: complex, obscure, hardly novel. A conventional initial public offering underwritten by investment banks was the marker of corporate maturity; merging with a pile of cash and entering the stockmarket by the backdoor was not. This changed when stockmarkets rallied from their covid-induced

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