Finance: A successful bet for Tidjane Thiam’s SPAC

By Aurélie M'Bida
Posted on Wednesday, 5 October 2022 12:36

Tidjane Thiam, Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse, gestures as he speaks during a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

With the announcement of a double transaction, the Franco-Ivorian is on the verge of completing his foray into the delicate world of “exotic” financing. 

It’s a double for Tidjane Thiam. On 3 October, the former CEO of Crédit Suisse and Prudential, became, in a sense, the former co-founder of the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Freedom Acquisition I Corp. The SPAC is soon to undergo a “de-SPAC” transition with Complete Solaria, a solar services, financing and products company based in San Ramon, California.

The deal, which consists of a merger by absorption of the SPAC into the target company Complete Solaria, is expected to be completed in the first half of 2023. At that time, “the combined company is expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the new ticker symbol CSLR,” according to the two companies’ financial disclosures. The merger values Complete Solaria at $553 million, at a price of $10 per share, before any potential buyout by Freedom shareholders.

In detail, T.J. Rodgers – the future chairman of Complete Solaria and former CEO of SunPower – and Freedom’s limited partners, Thiam, Edward Zeng and Adam Gishen, have entered into a binding agreement to purchase $7 million of convertible promissory notes as a guarantee for the successful completion of the transaction.

Developments in Europe

Complete Solaria, itself the result of an ongoing merger between two companies (Complete Solar and Solaria), will eventually offer financing solutions for customers looking to save energy in the US. Thanks to its IPO, and the approximately $350 million endowment of the vehicle co-sponsored by Thiam, the company should see a 2.5-fold increase in revenue between 2022 (expected to be $120 million) and 2023 (expected to be $285 million).

“Freedom has a global management team and a global investor base as well, which will ensure that Complete Solaria can achieve its goals in the US but also beyond, particularly in Europe where we believe the potential for growth in the use of solar energy by consumers and small businesses is enormous,” Thiam was quoted as saying in the US stock exchange statement.

Californian targets

With one foot in the United States, one foot in France and recently back on the political scene in Côte d’Ivoire, the former planning minister under Henri Konan Bédié has never really abandoned his profession as a finance man. After a relatively long period since the launch of his SPAC in January 2021, Tidjane Thiam was back in the news when Freedom identified another Californian target, Human Longevity Inc (HLI), last June.

At the time, the human genome sequencing company was due to go public via a merger with the Franco-Ivorian financier’s SPAC. The combined company was then valued at nearly $1 billion.

In the end, Thiam’s new deal combines an IPO with another company (Complete Solaria) and a second operation. Indeed, the former banker is preparing to raise funds for Free Tiger Fund (FTF), a late-stage venture capital company created by three of the directors of SPAC Freedom Acquisition I: himself, Edward Zeng and Adam Gishen. According to its promoters, the new fund aims to “leverage the wealth of investment opportunities they have identified across a broad range of sectors” from the “more than 90 companies evaluated”. Notably, Human Longevity Inc has given FTF a mandate to help it raise a preferred private equity round to fund its growth plans.

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