Exclusive-Geely’s premium electric car brand Zeekr seeks over $1 billion in U.S IPO

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Zeekr 001 electric vehicle (EV) by Geely is seen displayed at the Zeekr booth during a media day for the Auto Shanghai show in Shanghai, China April 19, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

By Julie Zhu and Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Zeekr, Chinese automaker Geely’s upmarket electric car brand, has confidentially filed for a U.S. initial public offering, aiming to raise more than $1 billion, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

In what would be the first major Chinese float in the United States in more than a year and a half, Zeekr is seeking a valuation of more than $10 billion, two of the sources said.

That compares with a valuation of about $9 billion in its maiden external fundraising last year.

The plans come as the brand, which competes with Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc and Chinese peer Nio (NYSE:) Inc, sets its sights on marketing its 001 crossover – its first and only model – in Europe next year. In doing so, it joins a growing list of Chinese automakers looking to launch or expand sales of EVs in the region.

Zeekr lodged its filings with U.S regulators last week and is planning to go public in New York as early as the second quarter of 2023, said two of the sources and a fourth source who also had direct knowledge of the matter.

The sources declined to be identified as the information had not yet been made public.

According to two of the sources, Zeekr also considered Hong Kong as its listing venue but picked New York in the hope of achieving a higher valuation.

Geely, which handles public relations for Zeekr, declined to comment. It said in October it would spin Zeekr off but did not identify a listing venue or the likely value of an offering.

Established by Geely, formally known as Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, in April 2021 to tap into increasing Chinese demand for premium EVs, Zeekr launched the 001 crossover in China later that year.

A successful IPO would be the first major U.S. float of a Chinese firm since Beijing tightened its grip over Chinese companies’ overseas share sales in July last year – a shift triggered by a cybersecurity probe into ride-hailing giant Didi Global on the heels of its U.S. stock market debut.

A Zeekr listing could open the way for more Chinese share sales in the United States, considered to be the world’s deepest pool of capital and to have a more predictable listing pace.

Only five Chinese companies have completed U.S. IPOs this year, raising a combined $162.5 million with the biggest a $52.25 million offering from hotel group Atour Lifestyle Holdings in November.

That’s a far cry from the $12.8 billion raised last year.

In August last year, Zeekr raised $500 million in its first external funding from investors that included Intel (NASDAQ:) Capital, battery maker CATL and online video firm Bilibili (NASDAQ:) Inc..

It sold just over 60,600 cars in the first nine months of 2022 which compares with roughly 285,900 Model Y crossovers for Tesla in China in the same period, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

The 001 model starts at 299,000 yuan in China, slightly more than the 288,000 yuan for Tesla’s Model Y which had a recent price cut. Zeekr has not announced pricing for overseas markets.

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