Airspan Networks looks to ‘New Beginnings’ with plan to go public via merger

Airspan Networks plans to go public in the third quarter of this year via a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company and use $166 million from the transaction to fuel its 5G ambitions in the midst of a global inflection point in 5G and Open RAN technology.

Airspan will go public via combining with the New Beginnings SPAC. SPACs, also known as blank-check companies, are formed specifically to merge with and take it public; they don’t have underlying assets. New Beginnings was formed late last year in an oversubscribed IPO round with a plan to facilitate a merger or reorganization with another company, possibly one in a business segment which had been impacted by the pandemic such as travel, hospitality, leisure, financial technology, insurance technology or property technology sectors. Now it has settled on Airspan as its partner company.

New Beginnings brings $116 million to the table and the two companies say that the combined value of the businesses will be nearly $822 million. The combined company will be renamed Airspan Network Holdings after closing; it will trade under the symbol MIMO (which hearkens back to Airspan’s acquisition of Mimosa Networks in 2018).

Airspan’s existing stockholders will hold approximately 75% of the common stock in the combined company after closing, assuming that they do not sell their existing stakes.

The combined company expects to receive approximately $166 million in net proceeds from transactions related to the merger — according to Airspan, that will include $75 million that SoftBank and Dish Network have committed to investing in common stock in a PIPE (private investment in public equity) transaction that could also involved participation from other existing investors, such as Oak Investment Partners and NEA. Qualcomm, which is an ecosystem partner of Airspan’s as well as a shareholder, will also receive equity in the combined company.

Those proceeds “are expected to be used to accelerate Airspan’s 5G revenue growth, to expand its product portfolio, and for working capital to fund increasing demand,” the company said.

Airspan said in a release that it believes that the wireless industry is “poised for rapid deployment of 5G technology” and cited the blockbuster C Band spectrum auction in the U.S. as evidence of “significant levels of investment from operators and new market entrants.” Network operators, it added, are accelerating their efforts to virtualize and densify their networks — and it argued that its own network infrastructure offerings support maximum efficiency of the use of that spectrum, on which carriers have spent lavishly.

“These trends are expected to provide Airspan with an opportunity to take market share from the legacy network providers and enter new high growth market segments such as Private 5G and Fixed Wireless Access, which are addressable markets in the new telecom paradigm,” the vendor said.

“These seismic 5G industry trends play right into Airspan’s strengths,” added Eric Stonestrom, president and CEO of Airspan, in a statement. “This transaction is expected to help fund our growth plans and accelerate our vision of providing our customers with leading edge 5G networks. We are at the precipice of a significant capital-intensive upgrade as 5G deployments drive the future growth of existing mobile carriers, new market entrants, and private and enterprise buildouts that we believe will transform numerous industries.”

The boards of both NBA and Airspan have already approved the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

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