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Odyssey buys drugmaker BenevolentAI in Europe's biggest SPAC deal

By Reuters

By Emma-Victoria Farr and Paul Sandle

LONDON -Amsterdam-listed Odyssey has agreed to buy BenevolentAI in a deal valuing the British-based pharmaceuticals firm at up to 1.5 billion euros after the transaction, the biggest acquisition by a European special purpose acquisition vehicle (SPACs) to date.

Odyssey, a 300 million euro ($338 million) SPAC backed by the founders of M&A advisory Zaoui & Co and the former head of Natixis Investment Managers, will raise an additional 135 million euros to pay for the deal and cover transaction fees.

Net transaction proceeds from the deal are up to 390 million euros and the money is being raised from investors including Singapore’s Temasek and drugmaker AstraZeneca.

In a statement, the companies said their deal represents the largest European SPAC merger to date and one of Amsterdam’s biggest biotech listings.

Several SPACs have listed in Amsterdam, potentially boosting the Dutch financial capital’s credentials as a hub for fast-growing companies. London has only hosted one major SPAC in 2021, after updating its rules to make them easier.

Blank cheque vehicles allow companies to obtain a market listing without going through an initial public offering (IPO).

BenevolentAI’s Chief Executive Joanna Shields said it had developed an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that allowed it to understand the underlying causes of a disease and increase the probability that a candidate drug will succeed.

With more than 20 programmes in its portfolio, BenevolentAI needed capital to scale its pipeline, she said. It had been considering a crossover fund raise later this year and a listing next year, before the opportunity offered by Odyssey.

“There was a real synergy between the teams,” she said. “It’s a fast route to a large pool of capital.”

Olivier Brandicourt, former Sanofi CEO, and Jean Raby, former CEO of Natixis, will join BenevolentAI’s board.

($1 = 0.8855 euros)