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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; New York Stock Exchange LLC; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change To Amend the Requirement Applicable to Special Purpose Acquisition Companies Upon Consummation of a Business Combination Concerning Compliance With the Round Lot Shareholder Requirement

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Start Preamble November 9, 2020.

Pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) [1] of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) [2] and Rule 19b-4 thereunder,[3] notice is hereby given that, on October 27, 2020, New York Stock Exchange LLC (“NYSE” or “Exchange”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) the proposed rule change as described in Items I, II, and III below, which Items have been prepared by the self-regulatory organization. The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change from interested persons.

I. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Terms of Substance of the Proposed Rule Change

The Exchange proposes to amend certain of the requirements of the NYSE Listed Company Manual (“Manual”) that are applicable to special purpose acquisition companies upon consummation of a business combination. The proposed rule change is available on the Exchange's website at www.nyse.com, at the principal office of the Exchange, and at the Commission's Public Reference Room.

II. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

In its filing with the Commission, the self-regulatory organization included statements concerning the purpose of, and basis for, the proposed rule change Start Printed Page 73122and discussed any comments it received on the proposed rule change. The text of those statements may be examined at the places specified in Item IV below. The Exchange has prepared summaries, set forth in sections A, B, and C below, of the most significant parts of such statements.

A. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and the Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

1. Purpose

Section 102.06 of the Manual sets forth initial listing requirements applicable to a company whose business plan is to complete an initial public offering and engage in a merger or acquisition with one or more unidentified companies within a specific period of time (an “Acquisition Company” or “AC”).[4] Section 102.06 requires, in part, that an Acquisition Company: (i) Deposit into and retain in an escrow account at least 90% of the proceeds of its initial public offering, together with the proceeds of any other concurrent sales of the AC's equity securities, through the date of its Business Combination; (ii) complete the Business Combination within 36 months of the effectiveness of the IPO registration statement; and (iii) provide the public shareholders who object to the Business Combination with the right to convert their common stock into a pro rata share of the funds held in escrow.[5]

Section 802.01B of the Manual currently states that: After consummation of its Business Combination, a company that had originally listed as an AC will be subject to Section 801 and Section 802.01 in its entirety and will be required immediately upon consummation of the Business Combination to meet the following requirements:

(i) A price per share of at least $4.00;

(ii) a global market capitalization of at least $150,000,000;

(iii) an aggregate market value of publicly-held shares of at least $40,000,000; [6] and

(iv) the requirements with respect to shareholders and publicly-held shares set forth in Section 102.01A for companies listing in connection with an initial public offering.[7]

Section 802.01B also provides that an Acquisition Company failing to meet these requirements will be promptly subject to suspension and delisting proceedings. However, while it is clear that an Acquisition Company must satisfy all initial listing requirements immediately upon consummation of its Business Combination, Section 802.01B does not provide a timetable for the company to demonstrate that it satisfies those requirements. Accordingly, the Exchange proposes to modify the rule to specify that if the Acquisition Company demonstrates that it will satisfy all requirements except the applicable round lot shareholder requirement, then the company will receive 15 calendar days following the closing to demonstrate that it satisfied the applicable round lot shareholder requirement immediately following the transaction's closing.

When a listed AC consummates its Business Combination, the Exchange will also consider whether the Business Combination gives rise to a “back door listing” as described in Section 703.08(E). If the resulting company would not qualify for original listing (including by meeting the applicable distribution standards), the Exchange will promptly initiate suspension and delisting of the AC. The Exchange proposes to modify the rule in relation to Business Combinations that give rise to a “back door listing” to specify that if the Acquisition Company demonstrates that it will satisfy all requirements except the applicable round lot shareholder requirement, then the company will receive 15 calendar days following the closing to demonstrate that it satisfied the applicable round lot shareholder requirement immediately following the transaction's closing.

In determining compliance with the round lot shareholder requirement at the time of a Business Combination, the Exchange will review a company's public disclosures and information provided by the company about the transaction. For example, the merger agreement may result in the Acquisition Company issuing a round lot of shares to more than 400 holders of the target of the Business Combination at closing. If public information is not available that enables the Exchange to determine compliance, the Exchange will typically request that the company provide additional information such as registered shareholder lists from the company's transfer agent, data from Cede & Co. about shares held in street name, or data from broker-dealers and from third parties that distribute information such as proxy materials for the broker-dealers. If the company can provide information demonstrating compliance before the Business Combination closes, no further information would be required.[8]

However, the Exchange has observed that in some cases it can be difficult for a company to obtain evidence demonstrating the number of shareholders that it has or will have following a Business Combination. As noted above, shareholders of an Acquisition Company may redeem or tender their shares until just before the time of the Business Combination, and the company may not know how many shareholders will choose to redeem until very close to the consummation of the business combination. In cases where the number of round lot shareholders is close to the applicable requirement, this could affect the ability for the Exchange to determine compliance before the Business Combination closes. Accordingly, for a company that has demonstrated that it will satisfy all initial listing requirements except for the round lot shareholder requirement (including the initial listing standards that are applicable in the event that the Business Combination gives rise to a “back door listing”) before consummating the Business Combination, the Exchange will allow the company 15 calendar days after the closing of the Business Combination to demonstrate that it also complied with the round lot requirement at the time of the business combination. To be clear, the company must still demonstrate that it satisfied the round lot shareholder requirement immediately following the Business Combination; the proposal is merely giving the company 15 calendars days to provide evidence that it did.

The Exchange believes that this proposal balances the burden placed on the Acquisition Company to obtain accurate shareholder information for the new entity and the need to ensure that a company that does not satisfy the initial listing requirements following a Business Combination enters the delisting process promptly. If the company does not evidence compliance within the proposed time period, Exchange staff would immediately Start Printed Page 73123commence suspension and delisting proceedings with respect to the company.

2. Statutory Basis

The proposed rule change is consistent with Section 6(b) of the Act,[9] in general, and furthers the objectives of Section 6(b)(5) of the Act,[10] in particular, in that it is designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, to foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in facilitating transactions in securities, to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system, and, in general, to protect the public interest and the interests of investors, by imposing a specific timeline for Acquisition Companies to demonstrate that they will comply with the initial listing requirements following a Business Combination and allowing a reasonable period of time for the company to provide evidence that it complied with the round lot shareholder requirement at the time of the business combination.

The proposed rule would specify the time when an Acquisition Company must demonstrate compliance with the initial listing standards following the completion of a Business Combination, thereby enhancing investor protection. Specifically, it would require an Acquisition Company to provide evidence before completing the Business Combination that it will satisfy all requirements for initial listing, except for the round lot shareholder requirement. While the proposed rule would allow Acquisition Companies 15 calendar days, if needed, to provide evidence that they also complied with the round lot shareholder requirement at the time of the Business Combination, that additional time is a reasonable accommodation given both the difficulty companies face in identifying their shareholders and the ability for the Acquisition Company's shareholders to redeem their shares when the Business Combination is consummated. In that regard, Acquisition Companies are unlike other newly listing companies, which do not face redemptions and are not already listed and trading at the time they must demonstrate compliance. Importantly, the company must still demonstrate that it satisfied the round lot shareholder requirement immediately following the Business Combination. As such, the Exchange believes that the proposed rule change appropriately balances the protection of prospective investors with the protection of shareholders of the Acquisition Company, the latter of whom would be harmed if the Exchange issued a delisting determination at a time when the company did, in fact, satisfy all initial listing requirements but could not yet provide proof.

The proposed rule change is also consistent with Section 6(b)(7) of the Act in that it provides a fair procedure for the prohibition or limitation by the Exchange of any person with respect to access to services offered. The proposed rule change accounts for the particular difficulties encountered by Acquisition Companies when attempting to determine their total number of shareholders due to the ability of shareholders to redeem their shares. Acquisition Companies will still be required to demonstrate compliance with all initial listing standards immediately following the Business Combination, which is the initial listing of the combined company. This is no different from the requirements imposed on other newly listing companies.

B. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Burden on Competition

The Exchange does not believe that the proposed rule change will impose any burden on competition not necessary or appropriate in furtherance of the purposes of the Act. The proposed rule would clarify that a company listing in connection with a merger with an Acquisition Company must provide evidence before completing the Business Combination that it will satisfy all requirements for initial listing, although a reasonable accommodation would be made to allow the company to demonstrate compliance with the round lot shareholder requirement before the immediate commencement of suspension and delisting procedures if that is the only requirement that the company cannot demonstrate compliance with before completing the Business Combination. This change is not expected to have any impact on competition.

C. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Comments on the Proposed Rule Change Received From Members, Participants, or Others

No written comments were solicited or received with respect to the proposed rule change.

III. Date of Effectiveness of the Proposed Rule Change and Timing for Commission Action

Within 45 days of the date of publication of this notice in the Federal Register or up to 90 days (i) as the Commission may designate if it finds such longer period to be appropriate and publishes its reasons for so finding or (ii) as to which the self-regulatory organization consents, the Commission will:

(A) By order approve or disapprove the proposed rule change, or

(B) institute proceedings to determine whether the proposed rule change should be disapproved.

IV. Solicitation of Comments

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views, and arguments concerning the foregoing, including whether the proposed rule change is consistent with the Act. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

Electronic Comments

Paper Comments

  • Send paper comments in triplicate to Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street NE, Washington, DC 20549-1090.

All submissions should refer to File Number SR-NYSE-2020-90. This file number should be included on the subject line if email is used. To help the Commission process and review your comments more efficiently, please use only one method. The Commission will post all comments on the Commission's internet website (http://www.sec.gov/​rules/​sro.shtml). Copies of the submission, all subsequent amendments, all written statements with respect to the proposed rule change that are filed with the Commission, and all written communications relating to the proposed rule change between the Commission and any person, other than those that may be withheld from the public in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552, will be available for website viewing and printing in the Commission's Public Reference Room, 100 F Street NE, Washington, DC 20549 on official business days between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Copies of the filing also will be available for Start Printed Page 73124inspection and copying at the principal office of the Exchange. All comments received will be posted without change. Persons submitting comments are cautioned that we do not redact or edit personal identifying information from comment submissions. You should submit only information that you wish to make available publicly. All submissions should refer to File Number SR-NYSE-2020-90, and should be submitted on or before December 7, 2020.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Trading and Markets, pursuant to delegated authority.[11]

J. Matthew DeLesDernier,

Assistant Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

4.  Section 102.06 provides that an Acquisition Company must complete one or more business combinations having an aggregate fair market value of at least 80% of the value of the deposit account (the “Business Combination”) within 36 months of the effectiveness of its IPO registration statement.

Back to Citation

5.  Section 102.06 also requires that each proposed business combination be approved by a majority of the company's independent directors.

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6.  Shares held by directors, officers, or their immediate families and other concentrated holding of 10 percent or more are excluded in calculating the number of publicly-held shares.

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7.  The applicable requirement is 400 holders of round lots (i.e., 100 shares).

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8.  Companies must seek this information from third parties because many accounts are held in street name and shareholders may object to being identified to the company.

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[FR Doc. 2020-25178 Filed 11-13-20; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8011-01-P