Singapore’s Grab Delays Merger Completion to Fourth Quarter

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Singapore’s Grab Holdings Inc. postponed the expected completion of its merger with a U.S. blank-check company as the ride-hailing and food-delivery giant works on a financial audit of the past three years.

The deal, set to be one of the largest-ever mergers with a blank-check company, is now expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. When announcing the merger in April, Grab expected completion in the third quarter.

Grab is the latest company to be affected by intensifying scrutiny from U.S. financial regulators on deals involving special purpose acquisition vehicles. A SPAC listing boom has pushed the number of pre-deal blank-check companies trading on U.S. exchanges to more than 500.

“It’s not completely unsurprising to see a delay,” said Matthew Kanterman, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “The audit process can take several quarters, especially if there needs to be back and forth with the SEC over certain accounting decisions and policies.”

Grab said it’s in the process of finalizing its financial audit in accordance with Public Company Accounting Oversight Board standards as required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It’s working with the SEC to get pre-clearance of certain accounting policies and related financial disclosures. As a result, its financial information for the past three years remains subject to review and revision, it said.

Last week, the SEC announced the removal of PCAOB Chairman William Duhnke, replacing him on an interim basis with PCAOB board member Duane DesParte. SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said he looks forward to working with DesParte and the staff of PCAOB to “set it on a path to better protect investors by ensuring that public company audits are informative, accurate, and independent.”

The SEC’s crackdown on how accounting rules apply to a key element of blank-check companies has prompted restatement filings in recent months. The regulator has said that SPACs may need to account for warrants -- securities issued to early SPAC investors -- as liabilities, rather than as equity.

Grab, Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup, is trying to take advantage of the U.S.-led SPAC listing craze even as its business continues to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Consolidated gross merchandise value rose 5.2% to $3.6 billion in the first quarter, with 49% growth in food delivery helping to offset a decline in ride hailing, Grab said. The financial services segment expanded 17%. The company didn’t provide revenue or profit numbers.

Grab said in April it is set to have a market value of about $40 billion after the combination with Altimeter Growth Corp., the SPAC of Brad Gerstner’s Altimeter Capital Management. The combined entity’s stock will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker GRAB after the completion of the deal.

Altimeter shares slipped 2.8% in U.S. trading Wednesday.

The company appointed Christopher Betts as general counsel. He was previously a partner in the Hong Kong office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a New York-based law firm.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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