BuzzFeed close to a deal to go public through SPAC merger

The online media outlet could announce a deal with 890 5th Avenue Partners as early as this week, WSJ reports

Buzzfeed employees work at the company's headquarters in New York January 9, 2014.   REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Online media outlet BuzzFeed is nearing a deal to go public through a merger with 890 5th Avenue Partners, a special-purpose acquisition company, as part of plans to consolidate with other digital media players.

The deal could be announced as early as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources.

890 5th Avenue Partners, a blank-cheque company named after the headquarters of Marvel's Avengers superheroes, was founded by investor Adam Rothstein. It raised $287.5 million through an initial public offering in January.

The merger deal would help BuzzFeed scale up to better compete for online advertising revenue with tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. The move would also generate capital for Buzzfeed and allow it to pursue further acquisitions, including Complex Networks, a digital publisher that specialises in streetwear, music and pop culture.

BuzzFeed laid off 70 HuffPost employees this March after it acquired the company and it also shed more than 200 jobs in 2019.

Blank-cheque companies, also known as special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), are companies with no commercial operations and trade without business fundamentals. They are formed with the intention of raising funds through an initial public offering and seek to acquire an existing companies.

Merging with a SPAC means less volatility for a company than a conventional initial public offering that would otherwise face volatility in its share price and allows a company to negotiate and lock in a price with the SPAC sponsor, which reduces uncertainty. SPAC mergers have lower transaction fees, a faster timeline than the traditional IPOs and provide companies with access to capital when liquidity might be limited due to market volatility or other conditions.

Although SPACs have been around for a long time, they have become popular in recent years, attracting high-profile investors and raising more than $83 billion last year alone, according to Bloomberg data.

BuzzFeed has been aiming to expand its operations and has been on the hunt for deals.

The media company will also look to continue growing in other areas including e-commerce and affiliate commerce – the practice of making money by selling products and referring potential customers to websites that sell products they might be interested in, the WSJ said.

In 2020, BuzzFeed turned a profit for the first time since 2014, in part by cutting about $30m in expenses.

BuzzFeed has had a long path to becoming a public company after grappling with challenges that have hurt digital media platforms, including an unreliable market for advertising, competition from powerful rivals and investor scepticism, the newspaper said.