Shares of Trump-linked SPAC close up 350% following news of social media deal

The stock price of SPAC company Digital World Acquisition Corp. skyrocketed on extremely heavy trading volume Thursday after news of a merger that would launch former President Donald Trump‘s planned social media platform.

DWAC’s stock surged 356.8% to close at $35.54 per share. Trading in the SPAC was halted multiple times due to volatility. At one point, the stock was up more than 400% to hit a high of $52.

Digital World Acquisition was the single most actively traded stock on the Fidelity platform Thursday, and was by far the most traded name on the consolidated tape of New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq listings.

DWAC is a so-called special purpose acquisition company set up to raise capital in the public markets to purchase private firms.

More than 470 million shares of DWAC changed hands during Thursday’s session, according to FactSet. In comparison, SPY, the exchange-traded fund that tracks the S&P 500, only traded about 32 million shares.

Homepage and app announcement of “Truth Social”. Former US President Donald Trump wants to start an alternative social network. Apart from the announcement, however, there is not much to see yet.

Christoph Dernbach | picture alliance | Getty Images

In a press release Wednesday night, Trump’s new company, Trump Media & Technology Group, said it and DWAC “have entered into a definitive merger agreement, providing for a business combination that will result in Trump Media & Technology Group becoming a publicly listed company, subject to regulatory and stockholder approval.”

Trump also said he would roll out a platform called “TRUTH Social,” which he claimed will “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

Trump has been banned by social media giants Twitter and Facebook since early this year after he was accused of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by a mob of his supporters. The violence interrupted the confirmation of Trump’s Electoral College loss to President Joe Biden.

Before the ban, Trump had been a compulsive user of Twitter, often sending out multiple tweets per day during his presidency. Since the ban, Trump has struggled to get his off-the-cuff brickbats against political foes heard in the mass media.

Trump earlier this month asked a federal judge in Florida to force Twitter to restore his account there.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 9, 2021.

Rachel Mummey | Reuters

In the press release Wednesday night, the ex-president’s new company said its “mission is to create a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.”

Digital World Acquisition was incorporated in late 2020, shortly after Trump lost a reelection bid against Biden.

The ticker DWAC was among the top 10 most popular names on Reddit’s WallStreetBets chatroom Thursday, even exceeding meme stock GameStop’s mentions, according to alternative data provider Quiver Quantitative.

That could be a sign that retail investors active on social media platforms were fueling the rally in the SPAC.

The Securities and Exchange Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the level of trading in the SPAC.

The planned merger values Trump Media & Technology Group “at an initial enterprise value of $875 Million, with a potential additional earnout of $825 Million in additional shares (at the valuation they are granted) for a cumulative valuation of up to $1.7 Billion depending on the performance of the stock price post-business combination,” the press release Wednesday said.

“Trump Media & Technology Group’s growth plans initially will be funded by DWAC’s cash in trust of $293 Million (assuming no redemptions),” according to the release.

Thursday’s rally could mean massive returns for insiders involved in the deal, including a handful of hedge funds. D.E. Shaw owned 8% of the SPAC, or 2.4 millions of shares, while ARC Capital held a near 18% stake, or 6.6 million shares, according to regulatory filings. Saba Capital Management, Highbridge Capital Management and Lighthouse Investment Partners were also big early investors of the SPAC.

A corporate overview of Trump’s new company does not list any officers, employees, or operations.

Instead, the 22-page slideshow contains several graphics showing how many followers Trump had on Twitter before he was banned, and suggestions that the new venture will compete with both Disney+ and Netflix.

Patrick Orlando, CEO of DWAC, in the press release said, “Digital World was formed to create public shareholder value and we believe that TMTG is one of the most promising business combination partners to fulfill that purpose.”

“Given the total addressable market and President Trump’s large following, we believe the TMTG opportunity has the potential to create significant shareholder value,” Orlando said.

The release also said that “TMTG intends to launch a subscription video on demand service” called TMTG+.

“TMTG+ will feature ‘non-woke’ entertainment programming, news, podcasts, and more,” the release said.

Orlando, who graduated from MIT, spent five years at Deutsche Bank, where he worked with emerging markets fixed income derivatives.

Orlando later moved into the South American sugar industry and is currently involved with at least three other SPACs, or so-called blank-check companies: Yunhong International, Benessere Capital Acquisition and Maquia Capital Acquisition.

Orlando is also CEO of Yunhong International, which was incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2020 and which lists its headquarters in Wuhan, China.

The city of Wuhan is also the origin point of the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, the pandemic disease that has ravaged the world for the past two years.

Both as president and since then, Trump has referred to Covid as “The Wuhan virus,” and insisted the pathogen was deliberately released from a Wuhan virology lab.

He has also demanded China pay reparations to the world for the damage wrought by the virus.

In May, Yunhong International announced it had reached a deal to take a Chinese green energy company, Giga Energy, public. But that deal fell apart, and Giga Energy terminated its agreement with Yunhong last month.

The chief financial officer of Digital World Acquisition is Luis Orleans-Braganza, a member of Brazil’s parliament and a supporter of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Orleans-Braganza is also a member of Brazil’s defunct royal family, which has not been in power since the country became a republic in the late 19th century.

But members of the family still pretend to be royalty. Orleans-Braganza himself has proposed an amendment to Brazil’s constitution that would create a fourth branch of government, a move that many observers see as an attempt to begin reinstalling a monarchy in Brazil.

– Additional reporting by CNBC’s Thomas Franck

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