Equity investing themes: Infinite SPACs – Space stocks soar on ARK ETF plans

Shares in Virgin Galactic (SPCE) soared 20% amid plans by Cathie Wood’s ARK Investment Management to launch a space exploration exchange traded fund (ETF).

Whilst ARK did not specify the companies it will invest in for the ETF, it is widely anticipated that Virgin Galactic would be among them, as well as Maxar Technologies (MAXR), which rose 30% in early trade on Wall Street. New Providence Acquisition and Stable Road Acquisition, two SPACs – or special-purpose acquisition companies – focused on space exploration, also climbed.

Beyond the most obvious winners, other beneficiaries include the likes of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which are all expected to lead the space exploration industry through their position in commercial and military aviation.

The ETF, which will be called ARKX, will invest at least 80% in US and foreign stocks engaged in space exploration and innovation. It comes after the launch of the Procure Space ETF (UFO) in 2019 with similar characteristics.

UFO holdings are doing well as a result of the filing. Iridium Communications (+7%), ORBCOMM (+7%) and Loral Space & Communications (+11%) all may be part of the new fund. Echostar, another top 10 holding in UFO, rose over 7%.

The ARKX fund will invest across four main categories of companies:

Orbital Aerospace Companies –  companies that launch, make, service, or operate platforms in the orbital space, including satellites and launch vehicles.

Suborbital Aerospace Companies – companies that launch, make, service, or operate platforms in the suborbital space, including drones, air taxis and electric aviation vehicles.

Enabling Technologies Companies – companies that create the technologies required for successful value-add aerospace operations, including artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, materials and energy storage.

Aerospace Beneficiary Companies – companies that stand to benefit from aerospace activities, including agriculture, internet access, global positioning system (GPS), construction and imaging.

“Space exploration is possible due to the convergence of a number of themes, and a Space Exploration Company may not currently derive any revenue, and there is no assurance that such company will derive any revenue from innovative technologies in the future,” ARK said in its S-1 filing.

View: Space is clearly going to be one of the most important frontiers for investors in the coming decade, with exposure to a broad range of technology players in this arena offering good optionality on the future of space travel and the commercial returns that it should deliver. But investing in space is more than just about rockets and satellites, as the ETF filing shows it’s also looking at a broad range of sectors from energy storage to agriculture.