Lynk Global envisages a total constellation of 5,000 satellites built in-house. Credit: Lynk Global

TAMPA, Fla. — Former professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez’s shell company got more time from investors to merge with Lynk Global, but has to give $176 million back to those opting to redeem shares rather than a potential stake in the direct-to-smartphone satellite operator.

Slam Corp, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that raised $575 million by listing shares on Nasdaq in February 2021 to search for an investment opportunity, now has less than $99 million in its trust account following a separate batch of shareholder redemptions earlier this year.

The high redemption rate is a blow for Lynk’s hopes to use the funds to grow its constellation — currently enabling intermittent texting and other low-bandwidth services to unmodified phones outside cellular networks in three countries — although extra financing could come from other sources as merger talks continue. 

Lynk declined to comment.

Slam originally had until February 2023 to merge with another company and faced its first wave of redemptions when it extended this deadline to February 2024. 

Announcing a non-binding letter of intent Dec. 18 to merge with Lynk, Slam said it needed permission to extend the deadline up to Dec. 25, 2024, because any deal with the Falls Church, Virginia-based venture would likely close in the second half of that year.

Investors representing around 87% of the voting power of Slam’s ordinary shares that took part in a meeting for its latest deadline extension supported the move, the SPAC said in a Dec. 27 regulatory filing. 

Those who have not redeemed their shares will get another chance to do so once Slam and Lynk finalize their merger and seek shareholder approval for it.

SPAC redemption rates have been high across space and other industries as shareholders jump on the chance to recoup their investment amid broad stock market declines in recent years.

According to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a law firm offering advisory work on these mergers, the redemption rate for SPAC deals closed in 2022 exceeded 80% on average, double the rate for 2021.

The average SPAC trust was over $320 million in 2021 but fell to just $248 million in 2022, the law firm added. Declines continued in the first half of 2023, with investors on average opting to redeem 95% of the capital in a SPAC trust in March.

Lynk has not disclosed how much funding it hopes to raise from merging with Slam, although the companies have said they are working on a deal that would value the combined group at $800 million.

The operator currently has three one-meter-squared satellites in low Earth orbit, and plans to deploy two more early next year via SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rideshare mission.

Ultimately, Lynk envisages a constellation of 5,000 satellites to provide continuous connectivity services worldwide through partnerships with terrestrial cellular operators.

Competitors include SpaceX, which plans to launch its first batch of satellites with an experimental direct-to-smartphone payload Dec. 30, and Texas-based venture AST SpaceMobile, which is seeking more funds after raising $417 million by merging with a SPAC in 2021.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...