July 6, 2015 / 9:52 PM / 2 years ago

Acquisition-focused companies meet soaring demand on Bay Street

TORONTO (Reuters) - A raft of Canadian companies set up with a mandate to make acquisitions and led by prominent Bay Street names is taking advantage of buoyant capital markets and strong demand from institutional investors.

Several other such vehicles are set to flood the Canadian market this year and are in the process of pitching their cases, said three banking sources who are familiar with the plans but are unauthorized to speak publicly about them.

With choppy commodity prices, large Canadian institutional fund managers are looking for ways to deploy capital beyond the resource sectors.

Special Purpose Acquisition Corporations (SPACs), which raise capital and trade publicly, aim to make acquisitions within a certain timeframe. They are reporting phenomenal investor interest, with most of these offerings oversubscribed.

SPACs have a longer history in the United States, where their popularity has been growing. Recent regulatory changes have cleared the path for listings in Canada as well.

“The regulatory burden has been removed and as a result the market has opened up,” said Neil Selfe, chief executive of INFOR Acquisition Corp IACa.TO, noting that about 92 percent of the company’s investor base comprises Canadian institutions and pension plans.

“It’s a very active M&A market,” he added. “Investors are looking for ideas outside of resources. We’re looking to take advantage of that.”

INFOR’s board includes CI Financial (CIX.TO) Chairman William Holland and Element Financial (EFN.TO) CEO Steven Hudson.

Dundee Acquisition Ltd DAQa.TO, the first SPAC to hit the Canadian market this year, raised some C$112 million in April. Then INFOR raised C$230 million and Alignvest Acquisition Corp AQX_u.TO raised about C$260 million.

“We are offering a private equity-style diligence and a private equity-style format in a public vehicle,” said Timothy Hodgson, managing partner of Alignvest and former head of Goldman Sachs (GS.N) Canada.

“Institutional investors are very enthusiastic about the opportunity. It’s a very compelling value proposition.”

Alignvest’s board includes Nadir Mohamed, former head of Rogers Communications (RCIb.TO); Donald Walker, CEO of autoparts maker Magna International; and Bonnie Brooks, vice chair of retailer Hudson’s Bay (HBC.TO).

“We’re seeing a groundswell of demand from investors for new opportunities,” said Tyler Swan, managing director and head of execution of equity capital markets at CIBC.

“They are looking for executives with long-term track records and skin in the game. The SPACs fit well with that.”

Acasta Enterprises Inc was the latest to join the party, with plans to raise C$275 million through an initial public offering in Toronto.

Reporting by John Tilak; Editing by Richard Chang

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