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EXCLUSIVE-Wejo to go public; deal values auto data startup at $800 mln -sources

DETROIT, May 28 (Reuters) - Auto data startup Wejo on Friday will announce plans to go public through a reverse merger with blank-check company Virtuoso Acquisition Corp in a deal that values the British company at $800 million including debt, people familiar with the plans said.

The deal, to be announced after the stock market closes, will raise $330 million in proceeds for Wejo, said the sources, who asked not to be identified. They said that includes $230 million from Special-Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) Virtuoso and another $100 million referred to as Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE).

An additional $25 million could be raised within the next month as talks continue with other potential investors, the sources said.

Investors in the PIPE include No. 1 U.S. automaker General Motors Co, which previously invested in Wejo, as well as data management company Palantir Technologies Inc, which billionaire Peter Thiel co-founded, the sources said.

The $800 million enterprise value for Wejo implies an estimated $1.1 billion pro forma equity value, the sources said.

Wejo and Virtuoso declined to comment.

The merger with Virtuoso is expected to close in the second half of the year, the sources said. The new company will trade under the symbol “WEJO” but the stock exchange has not been determined, the sources said. Reuters had previously said Wejo and Virtuoso were in talks.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to acquire a private company with the purpose of taking it public, allowing such targets to sidestep a traditional initial public offering (IPO) to enter public markets.

Wejo is led by Chief Executive and founder Richard Barlow and Chairman Tim Lee, a former GM executive. Virtuoso’s CEO is Jeffrey Warshaw.

The valuation is down from the more than $2 billion that sources told Reuters in March Wejo had hoped to achieve.

The SPAC market has cooled off recently amid fears of frothy valuations and last month the SEC suggested warrants issued by SPACs should be accounted for as liabilities instead of equity instruments.

Manchester-based Wejo organizes data from almost 11 million vehicles connected to the Internet through embedded modems for such clients as GM, Hyundai Motor Co and Daimler.

Automakers can use the data generated from that connection to develop apps and services for fleets, smart cities and individual consumers, including advertising, fleet management, insurance, remote diagnostics, roadside assistance, parking availability and traffic information.

Founded in 2014, Wejo, which stands for “we journey,” has raised almost $200 million according to PitchBook from such investors as GM, which acquired a significant stake in 2019, German auto supplier Hella, DIP Capital and the British government.

Wejo estimates that by 2030, the connected vehicle data market will be worth $500 billion, creating an opportunity for revenue streams and more services for automakers and their customers, as well as greater efficiency for companies in product development. Wejo’s technology platform, ADEPT, allows automakers to organize the data collected in those vehicles.

On Feb. 1, Wejo’s Israeli rival Otonomo said it would go public in a SPAC merger with Software Acquisition Group Inc II. (Reporting by Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by David Gregorio)

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