The space industry saw an unprecedented wave of financial interest in 2021. At one of the opening panels of SATELLITE 2022, “Space Goes Public: The Experts Speak,” finance experts talked about the state of play of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), the supply chain, as well the issues that these companies face in attracting talent to the industry to build their business plans.
Phil Ingle, managing director of the Investment Banking Division at Morgan Stanley called last year a phenomenal year for the space industry, and that companies were able to take advantage and use SPACs to gain financing.
In terms of what happens next, Ingle says, “I think what you will see over the next three years, the winners will be sorted out from losers. This is a natural cycle of capitalism. Many companies that did go public might need to re-access the finance markets for equity. In the environment we are in now, we will see which businesses can be successful. The companies that can’t get capital could slip by the wayside, or be acquired. It is the natural cycle.”
Ingle highlighted three revenue opportunities for companies going forward: the smallest is launch, the second is manufacturing/hardware, and the largest revenue opportunity is services. Ingle sees one of the potential future trends is companies investing across the value chain.
“In terms of M&A, we could see companies invest across the chain. For example, I could see Rocket Lab getting into the services side. You are going to see companies doing M&A across the chain. This will help set them up as a successful space company in the next three to four years.”
Mike Collett, managing partner of Promos Ventures, believes it will be a very interesting 18 months in the space arena, as it grapples in a market where there are supply chain issues, talent issues, and a fragile geopolitical situation.
“We are going to be in this environment for a while. Execution is going to be key. You need four to six quarters of execution. Can you get capital in the public market to stay going forward? These are good problems to have. But, it is a very healthy place that we are into. We will see wheat and the chaff getting separated,” he says. “It is a very bipolar world. SPACs have got a horrifically bad rap. The market will give premium to those companies growing 100 percent plus a year. In this sense, space is no different from any other sector.”
Mark Boggett, CEO of Seraphim Capital, highlighted the fact that there remains significant interest in investing in space, despite the current backdrop. The situation in Ukraine means space companies with a focus on government and defense are in demand. “A huge amount of work is being done by investors here, as the growth market returns. Half of our portfolio companies are selling to the defense and government market. A number of companies have hit their annual budgets already. They are trying to hire staff. They are hitting capacity constraints. It has been a very busy couple of months. There has been a massive uptake,” Boggett says.
Boggett, like many others, said the next one to two years could be critical for some companies as they look to access more funding. He said, “A number of space SPACs will need to come back to the market. There are only two companies that are trading beyond their merger price. A number of companies need to raise significant funding for the next two years. I think you will see at least one to two companies that will struggle to access the capital to fund the next stage of their growth.”
In fact, one of the biggest issues facing these companies that have done SPACs or are looking to do SPACs is making sure they have enough talented engineers and others to deliver on business plans. Michael Mealling, general partner of Starbridge Venture Capital, highlighted talent and supply chain issues.
“There is a change in the workforce. The ability to find talent is much more important to deliver for the company than the sector, or the geopolitical. Attracting talent is critical. There are 200,000 jobs in aerospace that aren’t being filled,” he said. “There are launch components that come out of Ukraine. Ukraine has a large group of aerospace engineers. There are some supply chain issues. They are still trying to deliver product even with the war going on. The supply chain problems that are changing. It is not just components, but people.”
However, most were optimistic that despite these issues, space remains a good opportunity for investors. Laurence Vigeant-Langlois, managing director of AE Industrial Partners hailed 2021, calling it a record year for investment in the space sector.
“Now, we are seeing inflation and interest rates going up. There are turbulent times,” Vigeant-Langlois said. “However, this is the golden age of space. Diversification of space means we are very keen on continuing to invest in this sector.” VS