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Electric cars

Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio closes 10 per cent up in New York IPO debut

Early investors hold onto their stakes in what is seen as a potential rival to Tesla

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 5:18am

In one of the year’s largest Chinese public offerings in the US, Nio, an electric-vehicle maker backed by the Chinese technology giant Tencent, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday and closed up nearly 10 per cent.

Nio stock opened below range at US$6 a share, and had a mixed reception on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat. After dropping to a low of US$5.35, however, shares recovered to close up at US$6.58.

Nio raised US$1 billion and has a goal to turn profitable within three to four years.

Founded by Chinese entrepreneur William Li in 2014 and based in Shanghai, Nio is regarded as China’s answer to Tesla, with its ES8 pure-electric, seven-seat sport-utility vehicle being compared to Tesla’s Model X.

Like Tesla, Nio continues to report a loss, posting a net loss of US$502.6 million in the first six months of 2018 on revenue of US$6.95 million, according to the company. Nio which is still at the outset of production, has sold 2,100 vehicles so far.

“We are aiming to turn a profit within three to four years by focusing on the Chinese market before going global,” Nio Chief Financial Officer Louis Hsieh told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday. “China accounts for about 60 per cent of the electric vehicle market in the world.”

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The IPO comes as China continues to push into the electric-vehicle market. About 375,000 vehicles were manufactured by China in 2016, counting for about 43 per cent of total production globally, according to McKinsey & Company.

Nio, formerly known as NextEV, is backed by Tencent Holdings, along with other high-profile corporate investors including the tech giant Baidu, private equity firm Hillhouse Capital and Temasek, a holding company owned by the government of Singapore.

All the early investors have kept their stakes in the company at the time of the IPO, said Hsieh, indicating their faith in Nio’s prospects.

In the immediate future, however, uncertainty is building as trade disputes between the US and China continue to escalate.

“Tariffs currently help us for now because they make US cars more expensive,” Hsieh said. “But this is something we are monitoring closely as situations evolve.”

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While acknowledging the comparison between Nio and Tesla, he said that Nio regards other high-end brands such as Mercedes and Audi as competitors as well.

“We are catering to the premium car buyers in China who want bigger cars like SUVs and that is how we design the cars,” said Hsieh said.