World View stratollite
A World View stratospheric balloon, or "stratollite," is prepared for launch from the company's Tucson, Arizona, headquarters in October 2017. Credit: World View

WASHINGTON — World View, the stratospheric ballooning company that has offered an alternative to spacecraft for applications from remote sensing to space tourism, has terminated plans to go public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger.

In a Nov. 17 statement, World View and Leo Holdings Corp II announced they were canceling plans announced in January to merge. The decision to end the merger was mutual, the companies said.

The companies did not give a specific reason for calling off the deal. “Over the course of 2023, World View received strong interest from potential investors,” the companies stated. “However, given challenging market conditions, World View and Leo jointly determined that it was the best course of action at this time to not proceed with their previously announced transaction.”

The companies announced the merger in January, saying it would provide up to $121 million for World View and value the company at $350 million. At the time, the companies expected the deal to close in the second quarter.

However, there were few updates about the status of the merger in subsequent months. Leo Holdings, facing an October deadline to consummate the deal or liquidate the company, held a shareholder meeting Oct. 12 to approve an extension of up to one year. Leo Holdings said at the time only that it needed more time to complete the merger with World View.

World View, founded more than a decade ago, has developed stratospheric balloons for a range of applications traditionally performed by satellites, such as remote sensing and communications. The company also has plans to fly people on such balloons to give them some elements of a spaceflight experience.

In an investor presentation filed with the SEC in February, World View disclosed it performed four balloon flights in 2022 and generated $3 million in revenue. It projected $17 million in revenue in 2023 with an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) loss of $11.6 million.

The World View deal was announced even as interest in SPACs had fallen sharply from its peak in 2021. About a dozen space companies went public through SPAC mergers. Their shares prices have fallen substantially since completing their mergers. Many of those companies have struggled financially, with one, Virgin Orbit, going bankrupt in April. Others, like Astra, are running low on cash.

With the termination of the World View merger, Leo Holdings says it concluded it would not be able to complete a merger with another company. The SPAC will instead liquidate, returning its proceeds to shareholders.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...