Online lender SoFi to go public via SPAC backed by Chamath Palihapitiya

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Chamath Palihapitiya speaking at the 23rd Annual Sohn Investment Conference in New York City on April 23, 2018.
Heidi Gutman | CNBC

Online finance start-up SoFi is set to go public by merging with a blank-check company run by venture capital investor Chamath Palihapitiya, the companies announced Thursday.

The merger with Palihapitiya’s SPAC, Social Capital Hedosophia Corp V, will value SoFi at $8.65 billion. 

SoFi, short for Social Finance, was last valued at $5.7 billion in private markets, and has raised cash from venture capital giants such as SoftBank and Peter Thiel, according to PitchBook. Reuters first reported the deal.

Special purpose acquisition companies, known as SPACs, raise money through a shell company to buy an existing company. It’s an increasingly popular way for late-stage, venture-backed start-ups to list on public markets quickly.

Palihapitiya — an early executive at Facebook — has taken multiple companies public through SPACs including Virgin Galactic Holdings in late 2019. While another blank check company founded by Palihapitiya is set to merge with SoftBank-backed Opendoor Labs.

He said SoFi was an attractive bet based on its ability to meet the needs of modern, mobile-first consumers.

“What I did was systematically try to future out what was broken in banking, and try to figure out which company was the best representative of the solution people wanted,” Palihapitiya told CNBC’s Halftime Report Thursday. “Sofi was the top of the list when I looked across all the companies.”

Shares of the SPAC buying SoFi rose29% in Thursday trading on word of the deal.

SoFi was founded in 2011 with a focus on student-loan refinancing for millennials and now offers stock and cryptocurrency trading, personal and mortgage loans, and wealth management services. The company is run by CEO Anthony Noto, Twitter’s former chief operating officer and a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, joined SoFi last January.

— CNBC’s Scott Wapner contributed reporting.

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