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Chinese electric SUV maker seeks up to US$950m in US IPO

[SHANGHAI] Li Auto Inc, a Chinese electric carmaker, is seeking as much as US$950 million in a US initial public offering.

The Beijing-based company, which develops, manufactures and sells smart SUVs, plans to sell 95 million shares at US$8 to US$10 apiece, it said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Li Auto would join other electric-vehicle makers in tapping the US capital market. Shares of NIO Inc, a Chinese rival, have close to doubled since it went public in 2018. Nikola Corp. went public this year through a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, while Fisker Inc is in talks to do the same.

China is the world's largest market for EVs, but the competition is starting to squeeze out some companies. At least three have wound down their operations this year amid plummeting demand and a Tesla Inc offensive that put Elon Musk's company atop the sales charts.

In that climate, some Chinese startups view IPOs as a way to ensure survival. WM Motor Technology Co is weighing an initial stock sale in Shanghai as soon as this year, people familiar with the matter said. Hozon New Energy Automobile Co., which is pushing into rural areas and lower-tier cities, said July 24 it wants to go public in Shanghai as soon as next year.

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Li Auto, which makes SUVs that cost between US$21,000 and US$70,000, plans to launch a premium vehicle in 2022, it said in the filing. The company sold about 10,400 of its flagship model Li ONE as of the end of June.

It has yet to turn a profit. The carmaker, founded in 2015, reported a net loss of 77 million yuan (S$15.2 million) in the three months ended March, about a fifth of the loss reported in the same period last year. It only started reporting revenue in 2019.

Hillhouse Capital has indicated an interest in purchasing as much as US$300 million worth of shares in the offering at the IPO price, Li Auto said in the filing.

The IPO, which consists of American Depositary Shares, is expected to price on July 30, according to a term sheet obtained by Bloomberg News.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, UBS Group AG and China International Capital Corp. are leading the offering. Li Auto will list on Nasdaq under the symbol LI.


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