Tencent-backed Chinese EV maker seeks US$1.8b US IPO

A NIO Eve autonomous concept electric car

As Tesla's board considers CEO Elon Musk's plan to take the electric-car maker private, Chinese competitor Nio is moving in the opposite direction after filing to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. NIO named a target raise of $1.8 billion, though the target listed on a first filing is typically an estimate used to determine expected fees and is updated with a more solid number in subsequent filings.

Nio sees itself as a pioneer in the market for premium electric vehicles in China, and for the moment, it's planning to only sell its cars in that country.

Nio plans to launch its second volume manufactured electric vehicle, the ES6, by the end of 2018 and start initial deliveries in the first half of 2019.

In the NYSE filing, Nio lauded its charging facilities, including a battery swap scheme, mobile charging truck service and pick-up and drop-off charging service. Nio has so far delivered 481 ES8s and has unfulfilled reservations for more than 17,000 ES8s with deposits. It listed almost $7 million in revenue for this year's first six months.

Founded in 2014, Nio has R&D and design experts from around the world.

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NIO Capital says that the huge costs involved in starting an electric vehicle company from scratch is the main reason why 99 percent of the will fail.

It brought in US$7 million in sales during the first half of the year while racking up a loss of more than US$500 million. Its investors include Baidu, Lenovo and Sequoia Capital. Its Pilot technology, which includes automatic emergency breaking and other features, is available inside the ES8 vehicle, and Nio is one of 55 companies with permission to test autonomous vehicles on California public roads. The billionaire has said he plans to take the money-losing company private at US$420 a share, valuing Tesla at US$82 billion.

Nio also called out as a risk factor its reliance on manufacturing partners, such as Jianghuai Automobile Group Co., or JAC.

As it turns out, electricity only made supercars better, not worse.

Lead underwriters on the deal are Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC (NYSE: GS), and J.P. Morgan (NYSE: JPM).

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