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(Reuters) -Vertical Aerospace, an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) maker backed by investors such as American Airlines, will go public through a merger with a blank-check firm in a deal valued at $2.2 billion, the company said on Thursday.
Vertical Aerospace said it has pre-orders for up to 1,000 eVTOL aircraft with launch customers Avolon and American Airlines, along with a pre-order option from Virgin Atlantic, all valued at up to $4 billion.
"If you think about transportation strategically this is the next big frontier," Domhnal Slattery, chief executive of Avolon, the world's third-largest aircraft leasing company, told Reuters in an interview.
"Whether it is airlines operating this as an add-on product or ride sharing businesses in different jurisdictions, I think it is going to take a lot of different forms over time."
Investment in the zero-emission electric aircraft comes at a time when aviation companies are under mounting pressure from investors to help decarbonize the sector and boost their environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores.
Analysts say a key question is how long it will take for the new electric aircraft to be certified by aviation authorities.
Europe's top regulator said last month the region could see the first flying taxis enter service as early as 2024. (https://reut.rs/3cyehAh)
Vertical will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker 'EVTL', following a deal with Broadstone Acquisition Corp. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021.
American Airlines and Avolon, as well as Honeywell and Rolls-Royce, have invested in Vertical via a private investment in public equity transaction, the company said.
Microsoft's venture fund M12, investment manager 40 North and venture capital firm Rocket Internet SE are also some of Vertical's investors, the company said.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru, Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)