New Amsterdam Invest’s great way to empty shell

New Amsterdam Invest’s great way to empty shell

New Amsterdam Invest wants to develop commercial real estate activities in Europe and North America.
Photo: Kim van Dam/ANP

Briefly

  • Amsterdam spac New Amsterdam Invest merges with a self-founded company.
  • The listed company will purchase commercial real estate in Scotland and the United States through operating companies.
  • The Actors Association expresses doubts about the construction.

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange is one of the wealthiest real estate funds. On Monday, Euronext welcomed New Amsterdam Invest in a press release , which aims to develop “operational and commercial activities” in commercial real estate in Europe and North America. The company is the result of a merger between empty shell New Amsterdam Invest (NAI), which is going public in 2021, and Somerset Park BV.

A remarkable bargain, for Somerset Park had been founded the previous Friday by the spac itself, after the shareholders’ meeting approved the building.

The Doers Association calls the construction a “gimmick”. ‘All the imperfections of the space phenomenon are expressed here, squared off,’ says director Gerben Everts.

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The Amsterdam Stock Exchange has been the center of European hype in recent years. Of the 35 spaces that went to Euronext between 2018 and 2022, 19 came to Amsterdam. There were 16 in 2021 alone.

In 2023, there will be little left of the popularity of the investment tool. Since 2020, there have been six mergers with existing private companies that have obtained a listing on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. In addition to NAI, these companies were platform maker Cabka, tech company CM.com, pharmaceutical startup Benevolent AI, FL Entertainment Group, and gaming and advertising company Azerion.

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Although all of these companies are still active, their stock prices are under pressure. Even CM.com, which has been known as a success story among space companies, is much lower than it was at its peak in 2021. The founders are like a dark cloud over the company.

Euronext Amsterdam says it will not respond to specific cases, but notes that the “vast majority” of Amsterdam’s space is still looking for acquisitions, and that “a handful” have decided to cease their activities. A recent example is Hedosophia. An empty shell Cayman Islands company was unable to find a candidate to merge in the next two years after raising $460 million and then had to return the raised capital to investors.

Loss of millions

This route was also in the near future for New Amsterdam Invest. In its IPO in July 2021, it raised €49.1m. In doing so, a company will buy real estate in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom or the United States within two years. It later announced in several updates that it had not yet been able to find a candidate for the merger. At the end of 2022, the loss incurred by the listed fund — after all, it generated no sales — had risen to €3.4m. Most of this was in shares paid out by NAI to the car’s sponsors, four Dutch real estate entrepreneurs.

These are brothers Arin, Moshe Van Dam and Kor Verkade — who together also own the Amsterdam-based private real estate investment fund, Van Dam and Van Dam en Verkade — and Elisha Evers, independent real estate entrepreneur and CFO of Israeli startup WikiBrains.

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In April it was reported that a candidate had been found: Somerset Park Group, with the Dutch BV acting as the holding company for four companies operating in the UK and two in the US. The British companies were set up between November 2022 and April 2023 by building trusts by four Dutch real estate entrepreneurs. British companies already own a hotel in Edinburgh and an office building in Somerset. After the merger, it was planned to purchase two more buildings in Glasgow.

NAI acquires more than 70% of Interra Properties through an American operating company. That real estate company owns One Park Ten, an office building in Houston, Texas. The same building is also mentioned in The real estate portfolio of the private company of the Van Damme and Vercade brothers.

NAI on Thursday couldn’t say exactly how that works. Executive Board Chairman Aryn Van Damme was on a flight to the United States and the Department of Defense could not reach him. Director Verkade points to recent press releases and the announcement of the shareholder meeting that were distributed in April.

According to VEB director Everts, the merger of the spac with a stand-alone private limited company is “a ploy to steal investors’ money”. After all, had it not been for the merger, investors would have gotten their investment back, minus the loss over the past two years. I don’t understand that 86% of the shareholders agreed with that. You have to be very naive to get excited about this.

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