NEW YORK/DETROIT -- Driverless car technology company Luminar Technologies, backed by investors including billionaire Peter Thiel, has agreed to go public through a $3.4 billion merger with blank-check company Gores Metropoulos, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
A deal for Luminar, one of the industry leaders in lidar technology that tracks a vehicle’s external environment, could be announced as soon as Monday, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is private.
Luminar is the latest private entity to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, as these investment vehicles have gone mainstream this year, offering a faster route for companies seeking to go public without the scrutiny or risks of an initial public offering.
Luminar is led by 25-year-old CEO Austin Russell, who founded the company in 2012 in Palo Alto, California. The startup’s technology, which uses lasers to create real-time imagery of the physical world, is deployed in cars and trucks. It has about 350 employees and appointed former investment banker Thomas Fennimore to be CFO in July.
Excluding cash, the deal is valued at $2.9 billion, the people said.
Gores Metropoulos is a SPAC backed by Alec Gores’ Los Angeles-based private equity firm Gores Group and Dean Metropoulos, a veteran investor in the consumer and food space.
The Luminar deal will be paid for with the $400 million in cash from the blank-check company, as well as $170 million from other investors including Thiel, a unit of Volvo Car and GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman, the people said. More than half of the $170 million will come from Gores and its affiliates, the people added.
Luminar and its existing investors will end up keeping about 80 percent of the company as part of the deal, the people said.
Gores Metropoulos raised $400 million, including so-called greenshoe shares, in an initial public offering in February 2019. Its shares closed Friday at $10.51, giving it a market value of $525.5 million.
Auto tech companies have benefited from the boom of blank-check deals as investors who might have earlier favored traditional IPOs now seek businesses with higher growth.
In June, another company that makes sensors used in self-driving vehicles, Velodyne Lidar, announced a deal to merge with blank-check company Graf Industrial.
After the transaction, Luminar will continue to be run by its management team including Russell and Fennimore, with Gores having a board seat, the people said.