On September 16th, Li Xiang, Chairman and CEO of Li Auto, expressed on Weibo, “Over the past few years, every single new energy vehicle company that has inflated or falsified financing amounts has completely disappeared. Those who tried to make a comeback ultimately failed. The investment partners who collaborated in the fraud also generally performed very poorly in recent years because of shared values.”
Regarding Li Xiang’s statement, some netizens raised doubts and asked, “Among the car companies recently announced to have obtained financing, which ones are NIO, Neta, Evergrande, and XPeng referring to?” Li Xiang reposted a comment saying, “NIO, XPeng, and Li Auto have never fabricated or falsely reported any financing. The three founders personally invested billions of dollars in real money. Those founders who engage in false reporting and fabrication generally don’t invest a penny themselves but register a bunch of affiliated companies for personal gains.”
Li Xiang’s veiled criticism of which car company has received mixed opinions from netizens, but more comments point towards WM Motor.
WM Motor, formerly known as one of the leading companies in the new energy vehicle sector, was established in January 2015. It was founded by Freeman Shen, former Vice President and Director of Geely Holding Group, and former Senior Vice President of Volvo Cars and Chairman for China region. With extensive experience in the automotive industry, WM Motor gained support from various capital sources including SAIC Motor Corporation, Tencent Investment, Sequoia Capital China, Baidu Inc., among others. From 2017 to 2022, WM Motor completed a total of 12 rounds of financing (A-D rounds), raising approximately 35 billion yuan (＄4.8 billion) from primary markets. This made it the new energy vehicle start-up with the highest pre-IPO financing amount at that time; whereas NIO, XPeng, and Li Auto, another company during that period did not exceed 20 billion yuan (＄2.7 billion) in pre-IPO financing.
In September 2018, WM Motor’s first mass-produced vehicle, the EX5, was launched. In 2019, WM Motor delivered a total of 12,799 vehicles throughout the year, ranking second among new energy vehicle companies only after NIO. However, amidst the backdrop of soaring sales for new energy vehicle startups, WM Motor found itself in a deepening operational crisis. From 2019 to 2021, WM Motor sold a cumulative total of 78,900 new vehicles but incurred losses amounting to 13.632 billion yuan (＄1.9 billion) over three years. On average, each car sold resulted in a loss exceeding 170 thousand yuan (＄23 thousand ).
Considering WM Motor’s past experience, it has almost relied on external financing to survive. That is why cash-strapped WM Motor is making every effort to seek an IPO financing in order to resolve the current operational crisis. According to Kapbook, as of March 2022, the company’s total cash and cash equivalents amounted to only 3.678 billion yuan (＄0.5 billion). If they cannot go public in a timely manner and obtain new capital injection, this money will not last long.
WM Motor has been seeking an IPO for a long time. It has previously applied to list on the Science and Technology Innovation Board and The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, but both attempts ended in failure. As a result, WM Motor has set its sights on a backdoor listing.
On January 11th, APOLLO disclosed a major acquisition announcement. The company plans to acquire all the issued shares of WM Motor Global Investment Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WM Motor Technology Group Company Limited (referred to as “WM Motor”), for approximately 20.23 billion US dollars (approximately HKD 15.854 billion). The settlement will be conducted through the issuance of 28.8 billion shares at a price of HKD 0.55 per share.
However, just when the outside world thought that WM Motor could successfully go public through a reverse merger, APOLLO suddenly announced on September 10th to terminate the RTO process. This means that WM Motor’s plan of going public through a reverse acquisition, which had been planned for as long as 8 months, ended in failure.
Just as the outside world thought that WM Motor might be in big trouble, on September 11th, Kaixin Auto suddenly announced that it had signed a non-binding letter of intent to acquire 100% equity held by shareholders of WM Motor. Strangely enough, WM Motor did not release this news simultaneously. It is understood that Kaixin Auto is a used car dealer and went public on NASDAQ in May 2019. In August 2021, it established a new energy vehicle department and shifted from being a used car dealer to manufacturing new energy vehicles. However, Kaixin Auto’s financial situation is not optimistic as it has been continuously losing money since 2019, with its stock price remaining low and even facing the risk of delisting at one point.
As the car manufacturing enters the second half, the funding threshold required by new forces in the industry is getting higher and higher. In order to ensure sufficient financial support for research and development as well as expansion, many automotive companies are seeking IPOs to solve their funding difficulties. For example, Neta, Avita, GAC AION, Zeekr Automotive, etc., are all seeking listings on the secondary market.
But this also requires a sufficiently large market competition, whether it’s Zeekr, GAC AION, or WM Motor, the shareholders behind them all have strong capabilities and can provide sufficient capital support. However, both WM Motor and Kaixin Auto are not optimistic in terms of operations and finances. Especially for WM Motor, it seems more like a new force company abandoned by the times. Its products lack technological innovation and its business situation has long been on alert. In this regard, the combination of Kaixin Auto and WM Motor does not seem to receive optimistic expectations from the market.