Saturday, May 15, 2021

Electric Vehicle Startups Lose Over $40 Billion After Taking SPAC Route Public

From Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance, May 14:

At their highs, five electric-vehicle startups that went public through mergers with special purpose acquisition companies were worth $60 billion. The corrections that followed have been brutal.

Three of the companies plumbed new lows this week as short-seller attacks, management turmoil and execution issues lead investors to reconsider their prospects. They’ve lost more than $40 billion of market capitalization combined from their respective peaks.

The sliding valuations of Nikola Corp., Fisker Inc., Lordstown Motors Corp., Canoo Inc. and Arrival Ltd. underscore the risks surrounding the blank-check boom. Unlike in a traditional initial public offering, going public via SPAC allows companies to make forward projections to investors during their listings. This was key to ginning up interest in EV companies -- all five are still working on delivering their first vehicles to customers.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened at each company:

Founder Trevor Milton burst onto the scene last year boasting that he could “out-Elon” Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk. Days after his battery-electric and hydrogen-powered truck maker debuted on the Nasdaq in June, it was worth almost $29 billion, rivaling Ford Motor Co. at the time.

When Bloomberg News reported that Milton had exaggerated the capability of his first truck years before the company went public, it got the attention of Hindenburg Research. The small short-selling firm produced a lengthy report accusing the company of deceiving investors. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation, and Milton resigned soon after.

Early this year, the company cut its projection for semi-truck production this year to 100 units, one-sixth of its earlier plan. The shares have recovered somewhat since dipping below $10 in April.

The second EV venture founded by longtime auto designer Henrik Fisker announced its reverse merger a month after Nikola’s listing. While the company was more than two years from starting production, its plan to market an under-$40,000 sport utility vehicle and outsource the manufacturing work to others turned heads. Its market value peaked at almost $8 billion in February.

The catalysts for Fisker’s decline to below $3 billion this week have been less clear than some of its peers. The company appeared to lose out as investors grew more bullish about incumbent automakers’ EV prospects. Its shares are surging in early trading after an announcement late Thursday of plans to develop an EV with Foxconn Technology Group and build it in the U.S.

Lordstown Motors
Then-Vice President Mike Pence attended Lordstown’s unveiling of its Endurance work truck in June at the factory the company took over from General Motors Co. While it was a risky move championing a company with just 70 full-time employees, the Trump administration was eager to embrace a startup trying to revive an Ohio plant that once employed 10,000 people....