Blade set to lift off; urban heli-taxi to go public in 2021

NEW YORK (AP) — Urban helicopter taxi company Blade will become publicly traded after a merger with Nasdaq-listed Experience Investment Corp., the companies announced Tuesday.

The deal, expected to close in the first half of 2021, will give the company an equity value of $825 million. Proceeds from the deal total $400 million, which includes cash from Experience and $125 million from private investment. Other investors include entertainment moguls Barry Diller and David Geffen.

Upon closing, Experience will change its name to Blade Urban Air Mobility. Its stock trading symbol will also change from “EXPC” to “BLDE.”

New York-based Blade currently provides short-flight air service, mostly in the Northeast United States and India. It plans to use the proceeds of the deal to expand its services and transition to electric-powered vehicles. Routes between airports in the New York metropolitan area and designated Manhattan heliports start at $195 per seat, and a one-way ticket for a commuter flight between 60 and 100 miles (96.6 kilometers and 160.9 kilometers) goes for between $595 and $795 per seat.

Experience Investment is a “special purpose acquisition company,” or SPAC, and a subsidiary of private equity firm KSL Capital Partners, which specializes in raising money for high-end travel and leisure businesses.

Citing Morgan Stanley Investment Research, the companies expect urban air transportation service to be a $125 billion market by 2025 and grow to $650 billion during the next decade.

Shares in Experience rose more than 6% in midday trading to $10.88.

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