Robinhood is widely expected to go public later this year despite the public relations black eye it received during the Reddit-induced GameStop mania. But another rapidly growing online trading rival will beat it to the market.

EToro, a broker with more than 20 million users, said Tuesday that it is merging with FinTech Acquisition Corp. V, a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company or SPAC, in a deal worth $10.4 billion. Shares of FinTech Acquisition Corp. V surged more than 25% on the news.

The deal is the latest example of the market’s love affair with SPACs, the use of so-called blank check firms to go public. It’s a suddenly trendy way for private companies to access Wall Street money and get listed on public exchanges without having to file as much regulatory paperwork as is required for a more standard initial public offering.

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Electric vehicle battery maker QuantumScape, sports betting giant DraftKings and PLBY Group, the “pleasure and leisure lifestyle” company formerly known as Playboy, have all gone public in the past year through SPACs.

“Time will tell how this SPAC enthusiasm plays out, but as always, Wall Street milks every cow until it is dry and then figures out how to profit from the carcass,” said James Gowen, chief investment officer of small cap equities at Spouting Rock Asset Management, in an email to CNN Business.

Banking on the boom in social trading for stocks and bitcoin

Typically, once a SPAC goes public, it has about 18 to 24 months to find a company to merge with to take public. If the SPAC is unable to do so, it must dissolve and return the proceeds from its own IPO to investors.

For eToro, which was founded in 2007 in Israel and has offices in Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, the merger with FinTech Acquisition Corp. is a way to grow its business and create more brand-name recognition — especially as Robinhood is still dealing with the bad press it received for temporarily banning trading in GameStop on the platform.

“We founded eToro with the vision of opening the global market for everyone to trade and invest in a simple and transparent way,” said Yoni Assia, eToro CEO, in a statement. “Our users come to eToro to invest, but also to communicate with each other; to see, follow, and automatically copy successful investors from all around the world.”

The company describes itself as more of a social trading platform — and it is growing rapidly.

Revenue more than doubled in 2020, to $605 million, and the company said it added over 5 million new registered users last year. eToro also said that monthly registrations for its platform grew to 1.2 million in January, up from an average of 440,000 last year.

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The company also said that in 2020 eToro executed more than 75 million trades, nearly triple its monthly average of 27 million. And it’s betting big on bitcoin and other cryptocurrency trading, as well as stocks.

“In the last few years, eToro has solidified its position as the leading online social trading platform outside the US, outlined its plans for the US market, and diversified its income streams,” said Betsy Cohen, chairman of FinTech Acquisition V, in a statement. “It is now at an inflection point of growth, and we believe eToro is exceptionally positioned to capitalize on this opportunity.”

Cohen has a history of creating SPACs to target private companies in the financial services sector. Her FinTech IV SPAC is in the process of merging with investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners.

Previous Cohen-led SPACs have taken financial tech firm Paya Holdings and wire-transfer service International Money Express public. As part of the eToro deal, big investors, including Softbank, Third Point, Fidelity and Wellington Management, are investing a combined $650 million through a so-called private placement in public equity, or PIPE.

Taking eToro public now is interesting timing given that its rival, Robinhood, is still on track for its own IPO later this year.

Robinhood was last valued at $11.7 billion, according to data from research firm CB Insights.The company also said last month that it had raised $3.4 billion to fuel what it dubbed record customer growth. It has about 13 million customers, according to Congressional testimony from its CEO in February.


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