Shell Games: On the Value of Shell Companies
Ioannis V. Floros
Iowa State University - Department of Finance; U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Iowa State University - Department of Finance
March 7, 2011
Journal of Corporate Finance, Vol. 17, pp. 850-867, 2011
A reverse merger allows a private company to assume the current reporting status of another company that is public. This can be done quickly, without fundraising, road show, underwriter, substantial ownership dilution, or great expense. Private firms that go public via reverse merger are often motivated by the need to quickly secure financing through privately placed stock (PIPEs) and the desire to make acquisitions using stock as payment. In each of the last eight years reverse mergers have outnumbered traditional IPOs as a mechanism for going public, and reporting shell companies are providing fuel for much of this growth. We study 585 trading shell companies over the period 2006-2008. The purpose of most of these shell firms is to find a suitor for a reverse merger agreement. These companies have no systematic risk, operations, or assets, and their share price tends to decline over time. Yet, these firms have investors. When a takeover agreement is consummated, shell company three-month abnormal returns are 48.1%. We argue that this exceptional return is compensation to investors for shell stock illiquidity and the uncertainty of finding a reverse merger suitor. We show that shell company returns are much greater at the consummation of a merger than those of a similar entity that in dollar terms is more popular among investors — Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs).
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: Shell Company, Reverse Merger, Reverse Takeover, Reverse Acquisition, Alternative Asset, SPACs, PIPEs
JEL Classification: G12, G24, G30Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 18, 2009 ; Last revised: September 20, 2011
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