ICR releases its January 2024 SPAC Market Update & Outlook report, which finds that the average value of SPAC IPOs took a 21 percent slide to $125 million in 2023. In addition, only 14 percent of last year’s mergers valued companies at $1 billion or more, down from 50 percent in 2022. On the up side, merger activity was steady at approximately 24 closed deals per quarter and liquidations decelerated. CleanTech wound up being the hottest sector for SPAC deal activity last year, accounting for $39 billion of the $70 billion in enterprise value for 2023. More than half (55 percent) of SPAC IPOs had Asia-based sponsors. For the year to come, the report says that a significant merger pipeline should result in solid activity, with more than 130 public SPACs seeking targets and another 140+ with pending mergers. “Strong public equity markets and improved investor sentiment should translate to a more robust ‘traditional’ IPO market in 2024,” said Niren Nazareth, managing director at ICR Capital.
Former Avenue Strategies managing partner Barry Bennett and Douglas Watts, who ran the Urban Media Group, have entered into Deferred Prosecution Agreements to resolve allegations that they failed to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act and committed related offenses. The case concerned Avenue Strategies performing lobbying services for Qatar, under which a company was set up (under Bennett’s direction and Watts’s management) with the purpose of depicting a second foreign counry in a negative light to improve Qatar’s standing with the US government. Bennett was charged with “a scheme to falsify, conceal, and cover up material from the Department of Justice’s FARA Unit and false statements and material omissions in FARA filings.” Thanks to the agreement with DoJ, he will have that information dismissed with prejudice after amending his FARA filings and paying a $100,000 fine. Watts is alleged to have acted as an agent of a foreign principal without registering under FARA and making false statements to the FBI. He faces penaltie including payment of a $25,000 fine.
Ruane Communications, an Alpharetta, GA-headquartered firm with an office in Chicago, rebrands as Ruane PR. With the rebrand, the agency is now focused on four areas of expertise: media relations, social media, content marketing and strategic counsel, working with clients in the healthcare, technology, consumer products and sports marketing sectors. Agency founder John Ruane spent 10 years writing for the Chicago Sun-Times before moving into public relations, with stints at Edelman and Pfizer. “Social media marketing is now a communications area that requires a level of technology expertise to understand the creative component and strategic direction as well as post-campaign performance in order to measure the success of each individual channel's strategy,” said Ruane.