As Tesla, NIO, Xpeng and BYD battle for dominance in China, which electric car maker has the slickest fundraising machine?

As Tesla, NIO, Xpeng and BYD battle for dominance in China, which electric car maker has the slickest fundraising machine?

Tesla Nio & Xpeng
Electric car companies’ dash for cash will continue through the Year of the Ox as the capital-intensive industry ploughs billions of dollars into new models and builds infrastructure across the world’s largest car market, China.

The single largest investment by the car industry in a century is well under way as electric vehicle (EV) start-ups ramp up production and traditional carmakers, such as BYD and Geely, switch to making EVs from fossil-fuelled internal combustion engines.

All of them need well-oiled fundraising machines to source capital for developing cars with longer driving ranges per charge while maintaining spotless safety records. Companies will also have to spend heavily on rolling out charging stations and marketing their models to China’s 1.4 billion consumers.

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2020 was a golden opportunity for EV companies to fill their coffers as their share prices surged. We calculate which company was most nimble in reacting to the sector’s changing fortunes since January 2020 by capitalising most on investors’ desire to participate in the industry’s growth.

To be sure, companies can tap into a wide variety of the sources of capital, including internal resources, government funds as well as external investors. Start-ups are competing against state-owned behemoths that do not need to tap capital markets.

Governments are lending their support to the EV industry in the form of subsidies in a bid to cut pollution from exhaust pipes. Beijing wants one in every five new cars hitting the country’s roads to be either purely electric, hybrid or fuel-cell powered by 2025, which could amount to 4 million units. EV makers such as WM Motor and Xpeng have won backing from government and state-owned enterprises to expand production.

Funding the switch to EVs has only just begun, cautioned analysts. Complete electrification of the industry would cost over US$2.5 trillion of investment, said Bank of America stock analysts in a research report. The next gear up, fully autonomous vehicles, would entail further investment.

The window of opportunity since January 2020 has given the more established players in the sector the chance to put more road between themselves and new entrants who have not yet listed such as Leapmotor and Aiways. It helps them retain talent, build factories and install manufacturing equipment.

Public markets investors leapt on the bandwagon as they looked to upgrade their portfolios in terms of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors. Tesla’s stock is nearly nine times higher than where it was trading at the start of 2020.

Given the current market exuberance, leading players could arguably raise more capital than they could productively use given the exuberance in markets. With that in mind, we also examine the major EV players’ long-term capital-raising records based on data from Refinitiv, Bloomberg and company sources as well as their key use of proceeds.


2020 to date: US$2.46 billion

Total funds raised: US$3.16 billion

li auto

First in our line up of the most prolific capital raisers over the past 14 months we have Li Auto, which is backed by mainland online services delivery giant Meituan Dianping. The Chinese electric vehicle maker raisedUS$1.0925 billion on Nasdaq in July during its initial public offering (IPO) and quickly followed up with a US$1.363 billion share sale in December.

Li Auto, founded by serial entrepreneur Xiang Li, is the first company in China to commercialise what is known as extended-range technology for EVs, which helps solve the problem of a lack of charging infrastructure in China and limited battery power. If the car’s battery runs down then a combustion engine kicks in.

Through Series A to C fundraising rounds, Li Auto raised US$676 million, according to Crunchbase. Just ahead of its IPO, Chinese car showroom platform Cango chipped in US$30 million.

Li Auto has no debt outstanding, according to Refinitiv and Bloomberg databases.


2020 to date: US$3.1 billion

Total funds raised: US$20 billion


Founded in 2003, Tesla is a fundraising machine, having tapped external investors for roughly US$20 billion, according to publicly available records.

The Palo Alto-based company made its Nasdaq debut on June 29, 2010, raising US$260 million. Now the world’s most valuable carmaker, Tesla was trading at US$816 a share as of mid February, 48 times its IPO price of $17 a share . Propelled by the surge in Tesla’s share price, CEO and early investor Elon Musk, is now one of the world’s richest men.

Tesla began construction of its Gigafactory in Shanghai, its first factory outside the US, in January 2019 and its swish models have become a smash hit in the Middle Kingdom. Its Model 3 was the bestselling EV in China last year, beating state-owned SIAC Motor’s Wuling HongGuang Mini EV into second place. In 2020, Tesla generated 21 per cent of its sales from China, its second-largest market after the US.

On January 1, Tesla launched its second Shanghai-made EV – Model Y, which is likely to boost sales this year.

Tesla’s grand total of funds raised breaks down into US$13.45 billion from 13 share sales and US$5.4 billion from eight bond issues, according to Refinitiv. Before its IPO, Tesla raised around US$790.5 million in debt and equity from private markets investors. Former MUFG banker, John Lin, is a member of Tesla’s global capital markets team, according to LinkedIn.


2020 to date: US$4 billion

Total funds raised: US$11.3 billion


Unlike Tesla, and the Chinese NEVs, BYD was an established fossil-fuel vehicle company before switching to electric power.

The Shenzhen-headquartered carmaker, backed by billionaire Warren Buffett, started production of EVs back in 2002 and by December, it was selling more EVs than traditional cars. Also in 2002, BYD listed in Hong Kong and then in Shenzhen in 2011.

China’s largest carmaker by market value raised HK$29.8 billion (US$3.8 billion) from the sale of new shares in January, the first time it has tapped public markets since 2016, according to Refinitiv. It also waded into debt markets raising US$282.8 million last year.

Founded in 1995, BYD said it sold the stocks to accelerate its replacement of vehicles powered by petrol or diesel with new energy vehicles and smart cars.

BYD is the world’s third-largest carmaker by market value, behind only Tesla and Toyota and makes EV models under the bands of Qin, Song, Han and Tang. It is also the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric buses.

The company started as a manufacturer of rechargeable batteries. In total it has raised US$7.9 billion from equities investors and US$3.4 billion from debt markets, according to Refinitiv data.


2020 to date: US$5.1 billion

Total funds raised: US$7.7 billion


Xpeng has overtaken BYD to slide into second place in our rankings of EV makers’ ability to capitalise on investors’ fascination with the budding industry. The Guangzhou company has raised a grand total of US$5.1 billion since the start of 2020 and its American depositary shares have jumped to US$43.41 as of mid February, nearly triple its IPO price of US$15 each.

The smart EV maker raised US$1.72 billion from its debut on the New York Stock Exchange in August. Founded in 2014 and led by He Xiaopeng, the eponymous carmaker quickly tapped investors with a follow-onshare placement of up to US$2.484 billion in December.

The company is ploughing the funds into research and development, with its third model slated for official launch and delivery this year. It delivered 27,041 vehicles last year.

While not counting towards its capital markets score, we note that Xpeng won government support in September to the tune of 4 billion yuan (US$620 million) to build its second EV factory . It also arranged 12.8 billion yuan billion worth of credit facilities from Chinese state-owned banks in January which it has not completely drawn down but has on hand for a rainy day and to smooth out its cash flows.

Xpeng completed its Series C+ round of fundraising in August, collecting a total of US$900 million from investors including Alibaba Group Holding, the owner of the Post, Qatar Investment Authority and Xiaomi. From Series A through C fundraising rounds between 2016 and 2019 it accumulated roughly US$2.64 billion, according to Crunchbase. Xpeng has no bonds outstanding according to Refinitiv and Bloomberg databases.

Xpeng hired Brian Gu from US bank JP Morgan in 2018 to front its fundraising efforts.


2020 to date: US$6.11 billion

Total funds raised: US$9.6 billion

NIO es6

NIO has had a roller-coaster ride over the past year, moving from the edge of bankruptcy in April to become the world’s fifth-largest carmaker by market value.

The Shanghai-based EV start-up raised US$1.1518 billion in 2018 from its IPO in the United States, the home turf of Tesla. I ts ADS were trading at US$57.32 as of mid-February, over nine times its US$6.26 IPO price.

Since listing, NIO has raised a mixture of equity, bonds and loans, creating one of the more diversified capital structures among Chinese-headquartered EVs. NIO named Jade Wei as its capital markets point person in 2018, according to LinkedIn.

Last year, NIO’s investor relations team was on fire, tapping equities investors at least three times to raise US$4.8 billion, according to Refinitiv. Most recently NIO, founded in 2014 by William Li Bin, sold US$1.5 billion worth of convertible notes in January, double the size of its 2019 US$750 million offering. It also placed US$200 million of convertible notes privately in 2020.

Before its IPO, NIO collected US$1.409 billion from Series A through D fundraising rounds, according to Crunchbase. Pre-IPO investors included internet behemoth Tencent Holdings and Edinburgh-based investment manager Baillie Gifford.

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