China’s Zeekr prices US IPO at top of range to raise $441 million

By Echo Wang and Scott Murdoch

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Chinese electric vehicle maker Zeekr Intelligent Technology priced its U.S. initial public offering (IPO) at the top of its indicated range, raising $441 million, it said on Friday.

Zeekr, which is the premium brand of Chinese automaker Geely, upsized its IPO to sell 21 million American Depositary Shares (ADSs) at $21 per share. It had earlier planned to sell 17.5 million ADSs.

The IPO gives Zeekr a fully diluted valuation, which includes securities such as options and restricted stock units, of $5.5 billion. On a non-diluted basis, the IPO values the company at about $5.1 billion.

The company closed orders from investors a day earlier in the bookbuilding process because of strong demand, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Three strategic investors accounted for $300 million worth of stock sold in the IPO, with Zeekr’s parent company Geely Automobile taking $271 million in shares, according to a person familiar with the deal. Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) took $19.1 million and Mobileye Global $10 million, the person added.

Geely had originally said it would take up to $320 million, in the IPO, a term sheet from the deal’s launch showed.

Reuters had exclusively reported the pricing of the IPO earlier on Thursday.

Even after the Zeekr deal was upsized, the value of shares sold to investors outside those strategic buyers was small compared to previous large China listings in New York.

Geely, CATL and Mobileye did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IPO was multiple times oversubscribed, two sources said, but analysts are not convinced there will be a rush of Chinese companies listing in New York any time soon.

“The Hong Kong market has to be revived for one to say that Hong Kong and China is back,” said Sumeet Singh, Aequitas Research director who publishes on Smartkarma.

“U.S. listings would be a second step after that and probably won’t take place until at least the U.S. elections are out of the way.”

The strong demand for Zeekr’s IPO comes against a backdrop of a fierce EV price war in China that has undercut profits, leaving a number of companies to pursue expansion outside China where they can charge more and beef up their margins.

Zeekr is one of a number of Chinese automakers, including BYD, SAIC and Great Wall Motor that have set their sights on Europe, rolling out electric models as they seek to compete with legacy European automakers on their own turf.

BYD and state-backed Chery have already announced plans to build cars in Europe.

While Zeekr successfully pulled off its U.S. flotation, its IPO valuation represents a climb-down from the $13 billion it was valued at when it raised $750 million from new and existing investors last year.

Zeekr delivered its first vehicle in October 2021. The company delivered a total of about 196,633 cars, mostly in China, as of Dec. 31.

Since the start of the year, Zeekr’s deliveries have overtaken its nearest competitors. Zeekr delivered 49,148 vehicles in the first four months ended April 30, while Xpeng delivered 31,214 units and Nio delivered 45,673 cars during the same period, according to regulatory filings and press releases.

Zeekr’s prospectus disclosed a surge in total revenue to 51.67 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) in 2023, up from 31.9 billion a year earlier. However, its loss from operations widened to 8.18 billion yuan from 7.15 billion.

The Zeekr listing is the biggest Chinese flotation on U.S. stock exchanges since 2021 when LianBio listed its shares in New York. Last year, Zeekr had put its IPO plans on hold, Reuters previously reported.

The number of Chinese companies that have pursued stock market flotations in the U.S. in the past few years has plummeted, after Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global was forced to delist its shares following a backlash from Chinese regulators.

(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York; additional reporting Scott Murdoch in Sydney; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Stephen Coates)