Exclusive: Air taxi startup Joby explores deal to go public – sources

(Reuters) – Electric passenger aircraft developer Joby Aero Inc is exploring a deal to go public through a merger with a blank check acquisition company with a valuation of about $ 5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Joby hired investment banks to solicit interest from so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) on a potential deal, the sources said.

The sources have asked for anonymity because the discussions are confidential and warn that no agreement is certain. Joby did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joby is developing a fully electric, zero-emission vertical aircraft that it intends to roll out as an air taxi service by 2023 at the earliest. Last month the Santa Cruz, California-based company agreed to take over Elevate, the flying taxi unit of Uber Technologies Inc. Uber took a stake in Joby as part of the deal.

Joby has raised more than $ 800 million in private funding since it was founded in 2009 and was valued at $ 2.6 billion in 2020, according to PitchBook, which tracks private fundraisers. Joby supporters include Toyota Motor Corp and Intel Corp.

A SPAC is a shell company that raises funds in an initial public offering (IPO) with the aim of acquiring a private company, which then goes public following the merger. For the company being acquired, the merger is a alternative way to go public on a traditional IPO.

SPACs emerged last year as one of the most popular investment vehicles on Wall Street.

A deal for Joby would come in the wake of another SPAC deal in the industry. Air taxi company Blade Urban Air Mobility agreed to merge with Blade, Experience Investment Corp last month, increasing the latter’s shares by 50%.

Reportage by Joshua Franklin in Miami and Anirban Sen in Bangalore; Editing by Lisa Shumaker