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Hedge Funds Find Arb Opportunity in SPACs

"Typically, it would be priced at $10 and trade at about $10," says Danics. "It wasn't a typical IPO where it's priced at $10 and can trade at $7."

Beginning in 2005, SPACs trading on the open market became flooded with funding from hedge funds and institutional investors. That boom ended as the financial crisis heated up last year -- creating a strange but immensely profitable scenario in an ordinarily sleepy market.

For example, recently an investor could purchase a share of Advanced Technology for $7.73, which carries an implied yield of 15.4% if held to maturity, according to investment bank Morgan Joseph. The maturity comes to pass in just over two months, when Advanced Technology is scheduled to submit a letter of intent on June 22. At that point, shareholders will vote on a deal, if announced, and be eligible to receive their portion of Advanced Technology's assets.

"SPACs became interesting because just like any of these kinds of closed-end funds, some of them are very compelling and trading at such huge discounts to net-asset value," says Andrew Schneider, managing partner and founder of HedgeCo Networks. "You can get in right now in some of these at 50%, 60%, 70% discounts to NAV -- even computed in a conservative fashion."

But the SPAC window of opportunity may soon be closing. HedgeCo has consulted about 10 new hedge funds with $500 million in assets dedicated to SPAC arbitrage and other closed-end fund strategies. AQR Capital -- a Greenwich-based alternative investment firm with $20 billion under management -- is one such company, whose diversified arbitrage mutual fund launched in January.
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