Germany’s answer to AirBnB hopes to spark a SPAC boom in Europe

September 22, 2021, 2:50 PM UTC

Germany’s HomeToGo celebrated its debut on the Frankfurt stock exchange on Wednesday via a special purpose acquisition vehicle, a blank check firm. Experts are following the performance closely to see if it could finally trigger a SPAC boom among the country’s often risk-averse investors.

Europe’s SPAC market is dwarfed by that of the U.S., amounting to $3.9 billion so far this year versus $98.5 billion in the US, according to Deloitte. But it is only just beginning, the consultancy argued, with the number of deals tripling over last year, while the volume raised jumping eight-fold. For candidates like HomeToGo, the advantage is an expedited process less onerous than a conventional IPO, with less funding uncertainty because the two parties agree to a fixed price as part of the deal.

Why is this listing significant? 

It is the country’s first attempt to latch onto the recent SPAC craze following an aborted effort in 2009 led by ex-Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff’s Germany I. HomeToGo is going public through a reverse merger with shell holding Lakestar SPAC I, issued by angel investor Klaus Hommel’s venture capital firm of the same name. In July, HomeToGo agreed to be acquired in a transaction that valued the company’s equity at €1.2 billion.

Nevertheless, about 37% of the SPAC investors refused to buy into HomeToGo, according to Handelsblatt, reducing proceeds by about €100 million, to €250 million ($293 million). To maximize growth, HomeToGo said it does not intend to pay dividends for the foreseeable future.

What is the business? 

HomeToGo claims to be the world’s largest online marketplaces brokering supply and demand for vacation rentals, touting among its strengths an engaging customer experience along with strong relationships with its rental owners. Customers can search among 14 million listed beach houses, cabins, house boats—even castles—worldwide, with the option to search for ones particularly close to the water, ones that feature amenities like saunas, or ones that welcome the family pooch.

The company estimates the overall accommodation market at €1 trillion in value, and says vacation rentals in particular remain both highly fragmented, wholly intransparent and underserved. Co-founder Patrick Andrae believes the company will benefit from the burgeoning demand for what he calls “workations”.

Unlike in a hotel, a rented vacation home could be the perfect place to spend holidays, while tacking on another few weeks of working remotely. “Why should you stay in rainy and cold Germany over the winter, when you can spend a month in Portugal?” Andrae said on Wednesday. “Our data shows already during the crisis this was a trend, and that will persist also in the future.”

Who is behind the company?

Founded in 2014 by Andrae and partner Wolfgang Heigl, it employs more than 350 people and manages 23 local apps and websites across Europe, North and South America, Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Headquartered in Berlin, the company also operates brands, Casamundo and Wimdu. 

Along with Lakestar, the company has counted venture capital firms DN Capital, Global Founders Capital, and Insight Venture Partners as early investors. Overseeing the four-man management team is board chairman Christoph Schuh, Lakestar’s managing director in Germany with more than 10 years as an active investor and advisor for travel businesses. HomeToGo also counts former Airbnb’s International Operations head Martin Reiter as board member and investor. 

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