Plot Thickens on UMG’s Upcoming IPO: Is a US Listing Also In the Works?

iHeartMedia Discreetly Files for IPO
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Four days back, ahead of Universal Music Group’s late-September (or sooner) debut on the Euronext Amsterdam, Vivendi officially sold 10 percent of the Big Three record label to hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Tontine Holdings SPAC. Now, Ackman has expressed interest in upping his stake in UMG – and possibly launching a U.S. listing after the European IPO.

Ackman voiced interest in acquiring a larger piece of Universal Music Group – and potentially pursuing a stateside stock listing – during a three-hour-long call with investors in PSTH, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange and has parted with its SPAC classification now that the UMG investment has closed. Whether the possible U.S. listing moves forward, Ackman relayed, is dependent upon approval from UMG’s board.

And in terms of an addition to PSTH’s 10 percent Universal Music Group holding, the New York native Ackman indicated that he’s in talks to expand the stake – albeit without disclosing concrete details concerning the proposed move’s timetable or the involved figures.

But it bears mentioning that PSTH, in a contrast to most other special-purpose acquisition companies, still has “$1.5 billion in cash and marketable securities” on hand even after paying for UMG, higher-ups said when confirming the transaction. Plus, Pershing Square Funds possesses “the right, but not the obligation” to purchase $1.4 billion worth of PSTH shares to fund more mergers/investments.

PSTH has also formed Pershing Square SPARC Holdings, “a Special Purpose Acquisition Rights Company” as opposed to a SPAC. This SPARC will offer common stock to PSTH shareholders at $20 per share – though these shares can only be exercised once the entity “enters into an official agreement” for a merger or acquisition – which will contribute to a maximum total of $10.6 billion in capital to fund other buyouts yet.

Worth noting in conclusion is that Ackman has long touted the perceived growth potential of UMG as well as the company’s perceived “strategic attributes and competitive advantages.” Included among the latter – which PSTH outlined in its release announcing the completion of the 10 percent purchase – are an “iconic world-class management team” and “irreplaceable owned IP and must-have content.”

Warner Music Group (WMG) returned to the stock market in June of 2020, after nearly a decade of entirely private ownership, and shares have quietly grown in value by about 20 percent during the last year or so. And ahead of its initially highlighted IPO on the Euronext Amsterdam, UMG today unveiled an expanded partnership with Snap, about one month after finalizing a new licensing deal with TikTok competitor Triller.