Lordstown Motors has filed for bankruptcy in the court of the state of Delaware, USA. This is one of the electric vehicle startups that chose to list shares on the stock exchange by merging with “blank-check” companies.
Currently, Lordstown Motors is almost out of cash, while accusing Foxconn of fraud by failing to fulfill a series of investment promises under the agreement to inject capital up to $170 million. Foxconn alleged that Lordstown violated the investment agreement by letting it share price fall below $1.
Founded in 2018 but in October 2020, this EV startup merged with a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) called DiamondPeak Holdings Corp. At the time, the transaction was valued at about $1.6 billion. Following in the footsteps of Lordstown Motors, the SPAC listing movement of electric vehicle startups has flourished as this listing promises quick access to capital.
“Bitter fruits” of the EV industry
Other EV manufacturers such as Lucid, Nikola, Fisker, and Canoo have also conducted IPOs through SPAC. At the present time, the majority of these companies are trading at or below their valuations.
Lordstown is an example. The automaker was valued at $1.6 billion at the time of the merger, but in less than 24 months, the company’s value dropped to $69 million.
In July 2021, Lucid Motors merged with Churchill Capital Corp. to list on Nasdaq. The deal was initially valued at around $24 billion and became one of the largest SPAC deals at the time. After the merger, shares of Lucid Motors traded at $7.16. Market capitalization fell more than 30%, to $16.3 billion as of July 13, 2023.
Nikola was also in a similar situation. In June 2020, the hydrogen and electric vehicle maker merged with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp. to conduct transactions on Nasdaq. After the merger, Nikola is valued at about $3.3 billion.
However, after the transaction, the electric car company faced accusations of fraud, causing the company’s share price to plummet and investor confidence to decline. By July 13, 2023, Nikola’s stock price dropped to $1.38, with a market capitalization of $985 million. The company has lost almost 70% of its value.
Emerging on Wall Street since 2020, the form of listing shares through SPAC is being seen as an alternative to the traditional IPO. Favorable market conditions such as low interest rates and high liquidity make investors pay special attention to this type of listing.
SPAC IPOs plummet
Over the years, many companies have chosen to IPO through “blank-check” companies. The US stock market used to record more than 600 registrations for listing under this form, so the quality of appraisal during the consolidation process of companies was seriously reduced. As a result, investors suffer losses and are negatively impacted.
This type of IPO is falling out of favor and decreasing in popularity. According to Statista’s data, in 2020 there are 248 companies conducting IPO through SPAC in the US. This number increased to 613 the following year, by 2022, the market will only have 86 listed companies in this form. In the first 5 months of 2023, only 14 companies chose to list through SPAC.
In addition to the electric car companies mentioned above, many merger companies failed. Some SPAC mergers did not meet expectations, leading to poor performance of post-merger groups. Since then, investors’ confidence in the quality of startups has weakened.
SPACs are also regularly scrutinized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, focusing on issues such as incomplete disclosures, potential conflicts of interest, and misleading statements. The market went down and the SPAC was affected by the overall decline of the market as well as the change in investor attitudes.
In fact, many businesses in the US have suffered from failure when choosing to list through SPAC. It is even harder for foreign businesses to want to go this route. The question is “Is the method of initial public offering by merging with another enterprise suitable for an emerging market like Vietnam?”
Admittedly IPO through SPAC also has certain advantages, as this is the shortest path for private enterprises to become public companies to attract investors who are looking for investment opportunities at an early stage.
However, as mentioned above, SPAC companies are often criticized for not disclosing sufficient information, potential conflicts of interest, and poor post-merger performance. To maintain investor protection and market integrity, regulators such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission have increased their oversight of SPACs.
By careful assessment, emerging companies can minimize risks and maximize the benefits of SPAC mergers. Thorough investigation, use of skilled consultants, and strict adherence to regulatory compliance are all necessary for a successful and mutually beneficial merger.
In addition, the listed company needs to determine whether the investment strategy of the SPAC company is in line with its long-term goals and growth plans, ensuring that the merger will provide the right resources, knowledge, and market access.
Listed companies also need to explore strategies for obtaining additional financing beyond SPAC mergers to address possible acquisition deficits. Engaging with institutional investors, and venture capital firms, or researching debt financing options will help fill any funding shortfalls.
* Sam Van is Senior Vice President and Head of Advisory Services at Freedom US Markets. He used to work for New York Stock Exchange as Former Director of International Listing Dept.
South Korea’s Hana Micron to invest $1bn in Vietnam chip production
The South Korean manufacturer of chip packaging and memory products told Nikkei Asia it is moving equipment to its new, second factory in Bac Giang province to “prepare for production and we have a busy schedule with customer audits, etc.” The province hosts three Apple suppliers and, with neighboring Bac Ninh, is known for making the bulk of Samsung phones globally.
The chip industry was a focus of U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to Vietnam in September, when his office said U.S. companies Amkor and Marvell will expand in the country. Days later Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh toured the U.S. facilities of Nvidia and Synopsys seeking further investment.
“Hana Micron’s Bac Giang project plays a key role in the socioeconomic development of the region and … follows the development direction of the government,” human resource manager Hwang Chul Min told Nikkei. “It will create opportunities to attract more high-tech projects and lay the foundation for the development of the semiconductor production ecosystem.”
The string of recent announcements has lent momentum both to global chipmakers, which are diversifying supply chains due to geopolitics, and to Vietnam, which aims to attract the companies after years of stalled attempts.
But challenges remain. Samsung, a client of Hana Micron, declined government requests to build a chip factory, with one source telling Nikkei the company “already invested too much in Vietnam.” The country also saw its biggest chip investor, Intel, choose rival Malaysia for a major expansion.
Vietnam is struggling to keep up with skills and infrastructure demands as well. Hana Micron will employ 4,000 people and cooperate with Vietnam-Korea Industrial Technical College for hiring, according to a post on Saturday on the government website of Bac Giang. The producer has a factory in Bac Ninh, too, where its job postings seek staff for information technology, sourcing, and production planning, as well as line workers.
“Hana Micron received special attention from Bac Giang province in providing conditions to ensure continuous production such as electricity and water,” the provincial website said. In early June, power shortages forced the province, one of several, to schedule hours-long brownouts, a disruption that has concerned investors across the country and across sectors.
The web post added that Hana Micron’s plant occupies six hectares, while “another semiconductor factory, invested in by Taiwan,” will start operations in 2024.
Among other investors, chip software maker Synopsys has kept an eye on China risks as it shifts to Vietnam. The U.S. company joined the September launch of a Hanoi center for chip design, a specialization that Vietnamese companies FPT and Viettel are also pursuing.
The Southeast Asian country so far has failed to bring in the billions of dollars it would take to build an advanced plant for semiconductor fabrication.
“Vietnam still needs a unified, national approach to semiconductors,” said a presentation by the government National Innovation Center at a Friday chip conference in Hanoi.
“Vietnam is poised for a breakthrough expansion of its semiconductor industry,” Vice Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Huy Dung said at the event, according to a statement. The country is “ready to welcome investors in the semiconductor industry with highly preferential mechanisms.”
These include perks such as a possible four-year tax exemption, NIC said.
Source: Nikkei Asia
Vietnam now a leading game producer: insiders
Fagen Wasanni Technologies, also said the country is part of the Southeast Asia region, one of the fastest-growing gaming markets worldwide, with a market size of 5 billion USD and 270 million gamers.
Among them, the mobile gaming sector is leading the growth trajectory due to its affordability and market penetration capabilities, as evaluated by the game-focused website Pocketgamer.
In this developmental context, there are now many Vietnamese enterprises capable of producing and operating online games instead of relying on imported products.
Vietnam has risen to the 5th position in the list of top countries for game production worldwide, according to a report from data tracking company DataAI & AppMagic.
In the first quarter of this year, 4.2 billion app downloads from games were created by Vietnamese developers, which highlights the country’s growing position in the industry.
Several Vietnamese app developers, including major names like Falcon Global, ABI Global, Zego Global, and Rocket Studio, are among the top 50 companies in e-game production. The applications developed by these companies were downloaded more than 100,000 times in 2022.
A recent assessment by Bloomberg also acknowledges Vietnam as a powerhouse in the gaming industry, being among the top five countries globally in terms of mobile game production, based on download numbers in the first half of 2023.
Vietnam’s thriving talent pool and proximity to the culturally diverse region are also reasons for this growth, as cited by Samuel Stevenin, the general manager of Virtuos, a game maker that entered the Vietnamese market in 2011.
He also highlights the cultural emphasis on developing mobile products in Vietnam and Southeast Asia as a whole, as well as the expertise and passion of local talents in creating high-quality digital content and world-class games. The explosive success of games like Axie Infinity and Flappy Bird are among many inspiring success stories that have made a significant impact.
VinFast’s new sales approach has US car dealers cautious but interested
The carmaker, which has shipped nearly 3,000 vehicles to North America since late last year, said on Tuesday it was changing its distribution model, which has been based on Tesla’s direct-to-consumer approach.
Now it wants to sell through dealers as well.
Several U.S. dealers contacted by Reuters are open to the idea, but said they need to hear more details about VinFast’s plans, including sales strategy, requirements for dealers, the company’s parts distribution plan and the vehicle warranty.
“Is there room for more brands? Yeah, there probably is. It’s just too early to tell,” said George Glassman, president of Glassman Automotive Group, which sells five automotive brands outside Detroit. “I’d need to see more before I could make an intelligent decision.”
VinFast made its U.S. market debut on Tuesday and shares soared, at one point giving the startup a market valuation of $85 billion – far higher than that of Ford or General Motors at the time. Since then, VinFast shares have retreated, and were down 33.6% at $20 as of Thursday’s close.
As VinFast ramps up efforts, it faces tough tests. The new hybrid sales plan is just another challenge and the luxury carmaker is already talking to dealers.
“Opening our own stores is great but it takes a lot of time,” CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy told Reuters on Tuesday. “Joining forces with other partners to go faster has always been our nature.”
Officials at VinFast, which has opened 122 showrooms globally as of June with most in the U.S. West, said aside from direct-to-customer sales, the carmaker would partner with dealers to open new points of sale in North America and other global markets.
“We are currently defining the terms of this new model and discussing with potential partners. More details will be announced in due course,” Thuy said in a statement.
U.S. dealers said there are too many unanswered questions, including how VinFast will distribute parts needed to make repairs.
‘DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS’
“The dealer has to be concerned with their (own) reputation,” said Scott Fink, CEO of Fink Automotive Group, which owns VW and Subaru stores near Tampa, Florida. “If I sell a car to you and you can’t get a fender, you’re going to be pissed off at me. I’m not going to do that.”
“The devil’s in the details,” he added.
While Tesla has established itself as EV market leader, other startups have struggled to get off the ground, dealers said. On top of that, VinFast will be competing with established brands with their own EVs, including GM, Ford and Hyundai.
“The first thing you have to look at is are you going to be around in five years? That’s a big concern,” said Andrew DiFeo, dealer principal at Hyundai of St. Augustine, south of Jacksonville, Florida.
Several dealers said VinFast may need to offer sweetened profit margins to dealers to account for the added risk. On top of that, the automaker may need to provide industry-leading warranty coverage on its vehicles to assure buyers.
Those possibilities leave industry consultant and former GM executive Warren Browne cold.
“It is a death strategy,” he said of the plan to use dealers. “There is too much value extracted by serving dealers. That’s a strategy Wall Street will whip them on.”
But with dealerships selling for historic prices, enough dealer owners will make the bet, said Rhett Ricart, CEO of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, Ohio, which sells 10 auto brands. Many also appreciate that VinFast is building a U.S. plant.
Dealers also said the lack of an established name is not a deal-breaker as Toyota, Honda and Hyundai all started small and grew into successes.
“If it’s a good product and it’s got a great warranty on it, Americans will buy it,” Ricart said.
Ultimately, dealers are always looking for unique opportunities, said Beau Boeckmann, president of Galpin Motors, which sells 12 brands in the Los Angeles area including EV startup Polestar .
Boeckmann, who visited VinFast’s plant in Vietnam last year and met with CEO Thuy, remains open to the opportunity.
“Dealers are entrepreneurial and they’re risk-takers,” he said. “Sales people love to be sold.”
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