Chinese Automaker Nio Aims for $2b U.S. IPO

Move underscores China’s aggressive aims for American auto market.

by on Mar.01, 2018

Nio is selling its ES8 battery-electric SUV in China. Will it be the company's entry vehicle for the U.S.?

It has yet to sell a single car in the United States, but that hasn’t stopped Chinese electric vehicle startup Nio from putting together a consortium of American banks charged with setting up a U.S. IPO that could raise as much as $2 billion in capital.

While that’s a fraction of the $25 billion stock offering floated in 2014 by China’s massive e-commerce service, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., it underscores the ambitious goals of Chinese automakers aiming to crack into the world’s second-largest automotive market.

Global News!

So far, only a handful of Chinese-made vehicles have come into the U.S. and, like the Buick Envision, they’re offered by Western brands such as Buick and Volvo. But a number of domestic Chinese manufacturers are hoping to crack the code over the next few years, including GAC which showed off a variety of models at the North American International Auto Show in January.

More formally known as the Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group, that’s one of the country’s larger homegrown manufacturers, and it has an established relationship with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, partnering in Chinese Jeep production.

(GAC plans to be first to sell Chinese-branded vehicle in U.S. Click Here for the story.)

GAC has been showing vehicles at U.S. auto shows for a few years now, including this sedan.

Nio, however, is a relative newcomer, founded only in 2014 – originally as NextEV – by Chinese internet billionaire William Li. It is one of a surge of Chinese-based or funded automakers looking to enter the electric vehicle market. New regulations in that country are expected to lead to explosive growth of plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles during the next few years.

Nio has actually made it into production, unlike a number of other battery-focused start-ups. It began selling the all-electric ES8 sport-utility vehicle in China last December. The all-aluminum seven-seater has been billed as a competitor to the likes of the Tesla Model X though, at a starting price of around $68,000, it is substantially cheaper.

“We have an ambitious goal of delivering a new premium user experience with electric vehicles that will set benchmarks globally,” said Roger Malkusson, the automaker’s vice president of vehicle engineering, this week, as Nio announced an alliance with India’s Tata Technologies. Part of a broader consortium that also owns the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, Tata will take a lead in future vehicle development for Nio.

Nio has already laid out plans to enter the U.S. market with an electric vehicle by 2020, though it has not yet said if it will import a version of the ES8 or another product line.

(Click Here for more about China’s BYD plans to sell vehicles in the U.S. in two or three years.)

But to help it prepare it is setting up an IPO, according to the Reuters news service, that could go off within the next year. The Shanghai-based automaker has hired two experienced banks to pull the stock offering together, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. The goal is to raise between $1 billion and $2 billion, according to the report, which said that other banks involved in the IPO include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and UBS.

That would add to funding Nio already has raised from Tencent Holdings, a major Chinese investment company, as well as Sequoia Capital and Hillhouse Capital Group. Nio raised an additional $1 billion in funding from Tencent and other investors last November.

Chinese carmakers have been promising to crack Western markets for more than a decade, but they’ve had only marginal success so far, largely targeting places like Latin America. But a few have now cracked into Europe, including Great Wall, Chery and Geely. The latter marque owns Volvo which now exports one Chinese-made model to the U.S.

(To see more about other makers in China looking to sell in the U.S., Click Here.)

Geely is also looking to enter the American market with its new, mid-range brand, Lynk & Co. Meanwhile, Geely last month shook up the industry by announcing it was investing $9.2 billion to take a 9.7% stake in Daimler AG. The move is expected to help Geely gain access to the German maker’s battery-car and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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