A ‘blank cheque’ company set up by the Japanese technology giant SoftBank is in talks to merge with a start-up which competes with the likes of Google Maps in the provision of sophisticated location data services.
Sky News has learnt that Mapbox is in detailed negotiations to go public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) – the latest in a torrent of technology businesses to list on New York exchanges through such a route in recent months.
A US banking source said on Friday that the discussions between MapBox and SVF Investment Corp. 3 were at an advanced stage, but cautioned that a definitive transaction could still fall apart.
Investment banks including Cantor Fitzgerald, Citi, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and UBS are all understood to be involved in the deal.
Although Mapbox would be far from unusual in choosing a SPAC to launch its tenure as a publicly traded company, the transaction would be unusual in that SoftBank is already a shareholder in the company through its vast Vision Fund.
Mapbox, which was founded in 2010, announced in 2017 that SoftBank had led a $164m Series C funding round without disclosing its valuation.
It was unclear on Friday how much new capital the merger would involve through a component of the deal known as a PIPE – private investment in public equity.
The banking source said, though, that the transaction overall was likely to value Mapbox at between $1.5bn and $2bn.
If confirmed, MapBox would be the latest company backed by SoftBank’s Vision Funds to go public through a SPAC merger.
WeWork, the shared office-space provider, struck a deal last month with BowX Acquisition to go public at a $9bn valuation nearly two years after aborting a conventional IPO at a far higher valuation.
The biggest SPAC deal of all to date has been the recently announced $40bn merger of the Asian ride-hailing app Grab with Altimeter Growth Corp.
Grab is also part-owned by SoftBank.
The Japanese group has created several other SPACs in addition to the one that is entertaining a merger with Mapbox.
Dozens of other companies from around the world have also agreed to go public in the US through SPAC deals – including Cazoo, the British-based used-car marketplace, which Sky News revealed last month was to float in a $7bn deal.
In recent weeks, however, there have been signs that the deluge of new SPACs has begun to slow in the wake of warnings from US-based regulators.
Mapbox was set up in a garage in Washington, DC, and now has more than 600m monthly active users around the world.
Employing more than 500 people, its products are used by tech giants including Adobe, IBM and Instacart.
The New York Times, Snapchat, The Weather Channel and Lonely Planet are also clients.
Earlier this week, Mapbox announced a deal with General Motors, one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, to deploy Mapbox Dash, an advanced navigation service.
SoftBank declined to comment on Friday, while Mapbox could not be reached for comment.