Healthtech/News/

UK healthtech giant Babylon Health to go public in US via SPAC

The merger with Alkuri Global Acquisition would give the combined company a pro forma equity value of $4.2bn.

By Sifted reporters

In one of the biggest floats for a European tech company in 2021, UK healthtech startup Babylon Health said on Thursday that it will go public in the US via a merger. 

The SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) in tow is Alkuri Global Acquisition — led by former Groupon CEO Rich Williams — and its deal with Babylon Health will give the healthtech a pro forma equity value of $4.2bn. The combined company will be known as Babylon and trade on the Nasdaq as ‘BBLN’. 

SPACs are a way for companies to list on the public markets without going through the onerous process of listing normally — and they’ve exploded in popularity over the past year. SPACs raise money from the public markets to buy a private firm, in effect making that firm publicly traded.

Speaking about the deal, Babylon founder and CEO Ali Parsa said: “Becoming a public company is just another step in our journey. We are at the very beginning of our work to reimagine our sector, to make it digital-first and prevention-first, and shift the focus away from sick care to true health care.”

The announcement comes as the market for European tech floats is again accelerating after a slow 2020.

With many of Europe’s tech successes raising record growth rounds in recent months, there has never been a bigger stable of IPO-potential European tech companies. Yet some investors bemoan the fact that many European tech unicorns, such used car dealer Cazoo and now Babylon, are choosing to go public in the US instead of in Europe. 

Global healthtech provider

Founded in 2013, Babylon has been one of the UK’s most successful tech companies, gaining unicorn status in 2019. It provides online consultations — increasingly critical as the healthcare sector goes digital — and also has a symptom-checking app.

But it’s not always been an easy ride. Babylon’s butted heads with GPs in the UK and received criticism for bold claims about what its AI can achieve. At the same time, it’s also been used as a posterchild for digital transformation by the likes of UK health minister Matt Hancock, while raising huge amounts of funding from Saudi Arabia’s state investment fund. 

In contrast to rivals such as Kry, Babylon has shifted its focus away from Europe in recent years. Its services currently cover 24m people in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and the company has said the capital raised through the transaction will help it scale in the US. 

Babylon founder Ali Parsa made the Sunday Times Rich List of the wealthiest 250 people in the UK for the first time in May 2021, with an estimated fortune of £825m. He will continue to serve as CEO and chairman of the board after the transaction.

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