Cazoo, the U.K.-based used-car sales portal, is set to go public in the U.S. after selling itself to billionaire hedge fund founder Dan Och’s blank-check company, in a deal valued at $7 billion, including debt.
The merger with AJAX I, a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), will raise about $1.6 billion in proceeds for Cazoo, including $805 million in a cash trust from the SPAC, and another $800 million from Ajax’s sponsors, the company said in a statement on Monday.
Cazoo will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, once the deal closes, under the new ticker symbol “CZOO,” and Och plans to join the company’s board.
The company’s $7 billion valuation would be more than double the $2.6 billion price at which it raised capital privately in October.
The news helped lift shares in British newspaper publisher Daily Mail & General Trust
which owns 20% of Cazoo’s stock through its venture capital arm dmg ventures.
Shares in DMGT, which said it expects to receive cash and shares valued at about $1.35 billion, were trading 9.24% higher in mid afternoon London trading on Monday.
Online car sales have soared during COVID-19 pandemic-fueled lockdowns, as traditional car dealerships have been forced to close.
Cazoo, which runs an online showroom and delivers cars straight to customers’ doors, said it expects sales to increase to nearly $1 billion this year, a 300% growth rate.
The company operates a similar model to U.S. peer Carvana
which has seen its shares rise almost 400% since March 2020.
“Cazoo is well positioned to take advantage of the shift to online car buying and disrupt the huge and highly fragmented European car buying market,” the company said. It estimated that Europe’s used-car market is worth $700 billion, with the bulk of it offline.
The deal with Ajax means that London will lose another technology “unicorn” — a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion — to an overseas bidder. A U.K. government-backed review of listing rules published in February recommended sweeping changes aimed at attracting technology companies, which included lifting a key barrier that has deterred SPACs from choosing London.
Since it was founded in 2018 by serial entrepreneur Alex Chesterman, Cazoo has grown to a team of more than 1,800 across the U.K., Germany, France and Portugal, and delivered more than 20,000 cars to consumers across the U.K.
Chesterman. who also founded property website Zoopla and DVD rental firm Lovefilm, which was acquired by online retailer Amazon
in 2011, will remain the chief executive of the company.
Ajax is also backed by Fidelity Management & Research, BlackRock, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, Jim McKelvey, co-founder of payments company Square, and Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of DNA testing service 23andMe.