BuzzFeed, the news, digital media and lifestyle company, has announced plans to become a publicly traded company through a special purpose acquisition company (Spac) that could value the 15-year-old New York-based firm at $1.5bn.
The company, initially known for listicles and online quizzes, also announced plans to buy Complex Networks, a global youth network that engages with millennials and Gen Z, from phone giant Verizon and publisher Hearst for $300m.
BuzzFeed has been on an acquisitions spree over the past year, merging with HuffPost in November and following a consolidation trend in digital media startups.
It has has become a contender in the news business, this year winning a Pulitzer for a series on China’s Uyghur detention camps, while simultaneously building what it describes as “identity-driven” lifestyle brands and licensing consumer products including food, cookbooks, Tasty branded cookware and affiliate commerce.
BuzzFeed will join a number of companies this year that have followed the non-traditional Spac path, which does not require the participation of an underwriting financial institution or attract the same level of oversight as a traditional initial public offering.
By some estimates, Spacs can cut up to 75% off the time it takes for a company to get its stock trading on an exchange, and to highlight expectations for growth rather than existing financial performance.
In its announcement, BuzzFeed cautioned as much: “These forward-looking statements are based upon estimates and assumptions.”
The release offered a compendium of words for potential investors to look out for, including: “may”, “should”, “expect”, “intend”, “will”, “estimate”, “anticipate”, “believe”, “predict”, “potential” or “continue”, or the negatives of these terms or variations of them or similar terminology.
“New risks and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible to predict all risks and uncertainties,” it added.
Several digital publishers, including Bustle, Vox and Vice, had held talks about a market debut via a Spac, CNBC has reported.
Under the plan, BuzzFeed is merging with a SPAC called 890 Fifth Avenue Partners Inc, and will trade under the ticker symbol “BZFD” on the Nasdaq exchange.
The company is estimating $654m in revenue in 2022 and $117m in adjusted earnings, according to an investor presentation. Its management team, including founder and chief executive Jonah Peretti, is expected to stay in place.
“With today’s announcement, we’re taking the next step in BuzzFeed’s evolution, bringing capital and additional experience to our business,” Peretti said in a statement.
“The acquisition of Complex Networks will expand our reach into new audiences, complement our entertainment, news and lifestyle brands, and open the door to even more revenue opportunities.”