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Global blank-check deal volumes, or mergers through special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), have surged to a record $170 billion this year, already outstripping last year’s total of $157 billion, Refinitiv data showed.

The record number of deals comes as SPACs are emerging as a popular IPO alternative for companies, providing startups with a path to going public with less regulatory scrutiny.

The latest data showed companies targeted by SPACs have been primarily from the automobiles, software and aerospace sectors this year.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to acquire a private company with the purpose of taking it public, allowing such targets to sidestep a traditional initial public offering.

They have gained in popularity in recent months, with investors increasingly looking to growth stocks for higher returns, and as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the traditional IPO process.

The SPAC deals involving Lucid Motors, Alright Solutions, and Fertitta Entertainment Inc have been the largest by deal value this year, the data showed.

U.S. SPACs have raised $64.2 billion through IPOs so far this year, or 76% of the total equity raised by IPOs in the market.

However, the shares of SPAC companies have slumped recently on concerns their valuations have become inflated, amid a rise in U.S. Treasury yields.

The IPOX SPAC Index, which tracks the performance of listed SPACs, has fallen over 12.5% in the past month, compared with the broader index’s decline of 2.4%.

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