Blade to go public via SPAC at $825m
Helicopter operator Blade is the latest company to go public via a merger with blank check company Experience Investment Corp., an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2021.
Through the merger, Blade will be valued at $825m – a significant amount higher than its 2018 valuation of $140m. The company will also rebrand as Blade Urban Air Mobility.
The $825m deal includes $400 million in gross proceeds, as well as a committed private investment in public equity (PIPE) deal of $125m.
Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal said on Bloomberg Markets: The Close: “The $125m will go to purchase infrastructure such as heliports, landing zones that will not only be used today – where we can enjoy better economics – but also can be used for eVTOL in the future.”
Wiesenthal said that the helicopter operator – which has had some 200,000 flyers – saw more demand for air travel year-on-year in October 2020. Moreover, battery technology and electric vehicles on the ground have meant “the next battle is in the air”.
“We’ve been building infrastructure and technology, from consumer to cockpit, over the past six years. We have done it under an asset light model using conventional helicopters so that at some point, a modest 2025, we’ll be able to use this entire stack to swap out helicopters for eVTOL,” he added.
There are more than 300 eVTOL manufacturers currently working on air taxi models. But Wiesenthal said Blade will not be picking winners. Instead, it will pick “the right equipment for the mission”, similar to what it does now with helicopters depending on what the mission is.
Blade MediMobility is the company’s organ transportation service. Wiesenthal says it is the largest transporter of organs in the Northeast United States.
Last year, Blade set up helicopter operations in India in 2019, flying between Mumbai, Pune, and Shirdi.
Eric Affeldt, CEO and Chairman of Experience Investment Corp. said: “Our deep investing expertise in aviation led us to evaluate dozens of potential opportunities, of which none proved as compelling an investment opportunity as Blade.”
KSL’s portfolio company, Ross Aviation, operates 17 FBOs in North America, including in New York, Massachusetts, and California.