Tidjane Thiam’s blank-cheque company is in advanced talks to merge with a Californian life sciences group founded by genomics pioneer Craig Venter, which offers clients a battery of expensive tests to try to prolong their lives.
The former Credit Suisse chief executive plans to use his $345mn special purpose acquisition company, Freedom Acquisition Corp, to merge with Human Longevity Inc for an implied valuation of about $1bn, according to people familiar with the matter.
Venter, who led the first sequencing of the human genome, founded HLI in 2013. The company maps clients’ genomes and subjects them to regular full-body MRI scans and various blood tests to fight diseases associated with ageing. The service starts at $7,500 and rises to $19,000 for a “platinum” package.
Thiam switched his attention to HLI after cutting ties with co-sponsor Pimco earlier this month, according to two people familiar with the matter. The bond giant had scuppered a previous planned merger between Freedom Acquisition and Mexican fintech Credijusto, according to these people, believing it overvalued the target company.
Spacs are shell companies that list on stock exchanges without a specific target and use their funds to search for private companies they can acquire and take public through a reverse merger. Most are required to complete a deal within two years of their IPO or return the money raised to investors. The boom in Spacs has receded in recent months alongside plunging stock markets.
Freedom Acquisition was listed in New York in February 2021 and counts François Pinault, the French billionaire who founded luxury group Kering, among its investors.
Pimco has soured on the Spac market after being involved in a bad deal as co-sponsor of Capstar Partners, which merged with pharmaceuticals company Gelesis last year.
Freedom Acquisition replaced Pimco with Next G, an affiliate of Chinese entrepreneur Edward Zeng’s China Bridge Capital. While no longer a primary sponsor, Pimco remains an investor in the trust, contributing about $25mn, one of the people said.
Freedom shares are trading at $9.82, below its $10 float price.
HLI was co-founded by Peter Diamandis, the XPrize Foundation founder and entrepreneur. It has sites in San Francisco and San Diego and plans to expand to London and Dubai should the merger go ahead, one of the people said.
Before approaching Credijusto and HLI, Freedom had also spoken to British health start-up Babylon, people familiar with the talks said, which ultimately went public via a different Spac before collapsing in value.
Freedom Acquisition, Human Longevity and Pimco declined to comment.