Benson Hill To Go Public In US$1.35B SPAC Merger As It Looks To Grow Plant-Based Meat Segment

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AI-powered plant tech firm Benson Hill is planning to go public via a merger deal with Star Peak Corp II, a blank-check company backed by Magnetar Capital. The deal is slated to give the company a valuation of around US$1.35 billion, with the proceeds going towards supporting its plant-based meat business segment. 

Benson Hill, whose AI and data-powered technology enables the creation of sustainable food and ingredients, is going public through a merger with Star Peak Corp II, a SPAC listed on the NYSE under the ticker STPC, and is dedicated to companies within climate and emissions reduction solutions.

The deal will provide the company gross proceeds of around US$625 million, including US$225 million in investment from a number of big name players like BlackRock, Van Eck Associates, Hedosophia, Lazard Asset Management, among others. Existing Benson Hill shareholders, which include the Mercury Fund and S2G Ventures, will see 100% of their equity holdings roll into the new combined public company. 

Expected to close within Q3 of this year, Benson Hill will have an estimated enterprise value of US$1.35 billion and will be listed under the new ticker symbol BHIL

Since its inception in 2012, Benson Hill’s proprietary food innovation engine, CropOS, has been producing sustainable soybean and yellow pea ingredients for a number of markets, including the plant-based protein sector. CropOS’ library of data is said to “double in size every year” and contains soybean breeding data and other statistical points, including 120,000 unique plant genomes across 27 species. 

As consumer demand for plant-based alternatives continues to grow, Benson Hill says that the deal and its proceeds will go towards fuelling its growth within its plant-based meat business segment, which has expanded significantly in recent years. 

We are now at the launch phase to deliver and help meet the explosive demand for plant-based ingredients.

Matt Crisp, CEO, Benson Hill

“Transaction supports Benson Hill’s continued rapid growth in the forecasted US$140 billion plant-based meat segment and broader US$5 trillion agri-food industry, offering a pure-play ESG investment opportunity tied to improving human health and driving decarbonisation,” said the company in a press statement released on Tuesday (May 10). 

“We are now at the launch phase to deliver and help meet the explosive demand for plant-based  ingredients that can displace processing steps, reduce additives, and serve as the ‘picks and shovels’ for the plant-based food revolution,” added Benson Hill CEO Matt Crisp. 

In its fresh business segment, Benson Hill provides clients, mainly within the health foods, nutrition and pharmacy industries, with differentiated produce and functional food products. 

According to a press release, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are serving as the joint financial advisors and co-placement agents for both firms over the SPAC deal. Kirkland & Ellis will also be legally advising Star Peak, while Barclays is providing exclusive financial advising services to Benson Hill. 

Benson Hill represents an attractive opportunity to capitalise on the scarcity value of high-quality public food technology companies with attractive ESG characteristics.

Eric Scheyer, CEO, Star Peak

Fellow plant-tech firm AeroFarms is also going public through a SPAC merger with Spring Valley Acquisition Corp. and will be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The deal is said to close in Q2 and is expected to lift the startup’s valuation to US$1.2 billion.

Agri-food tech companies like Benson Hill and AeroFarms are increasingly being eyed by investors as a major category of growth in the next few years, with the latest data showing that firms in the industry secured a record US$30.5 billion globally in 2020, up 34.5% year-on-year. 

Researchers at AgFunder said these figures were driven by bets on resilience, especially in response to global supply chain shocks and a refocusing on sustainability throughout the pandemic-stricken year. 

“We believe Benson Hill is at the epicenter of the evolution in our food system, with a business model that’s capable of materially transforming the sector by accelerating novel products’ paths to market and scale,” commented Eric Scheyer, CEO of Star Peak. 

“Benson Hill represents an attractive opportunity to capitalise on the scarcity value of high-quality public food technology companies with attractive ESG characteristics.”

Lead image courtesy of Benson Hill.

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