SoftBank SPAC to take Walmart-backed Symbotic public in $5.5 billion deal

(Reuters) -Walmart Inc-backed Symbotic said on Monday it would go public through a merger with a SoftBank Group Corp blank-check firm in a deal offering the robotics and automation startup a pro-forma equity value of $5.5 billion.

The deal with SVF Investment Corp 3 is supported by a private investment in public equity of $205 million from a group of investors, including Walmart.

Gross proceeds from the deal, which values Symbotic at a pro-forma enterprise value of $4.8 billion, are expected to be around $725 million.

The Wilmington, Massachusetts-based company was founded in 2007. It's AI-powered software uses several hundred mobile robots to improve speed and reduce damage at distribution centres.

Supply chain-focused Symbotic offers its services in over 1,400 stores in 16 states and eight Canadian provinces and serves retailers, grocers and wholesalers, including Walmart, Albertsons and C&S Wholesale Grocers.

The deal comes against the backdrop of global supply chain glitches brought on by labour shortages, port logjams, freight costs and chip shortages.

SVF 3, which raised $320 million in an IPO in March, was looking for a new merger partner after talks with location data services provider Mapbox reportedly collapsed.

SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies, are publicly listed investment vehicles that have no operations and are raised with the intention of merging with a private company.

They serve as an alternate route to public markets for companies looking to float their shares by sidestepping an traditional initial public offering.

Several software and technology companies filed to go public in 2021, either through traditional IPOs or SPACs, making it a record year for deals in the sector.

The combined entity will operate under the name Symbotic Inc and will trade under the symbol "SYM" on the Nasdaq after the merger, which is expected to close in the first half of next year.

(Reporting by Sohini Podder and Mehnaz Yasmin in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Shailesh Kuber)

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