Geely-backed smart car firm Ecarx said to seek Hong Kong listing after US Spac deal

Ecarx Holdings hasn't decided whether it will raise funds via the Hong Kong listing as considerations are at an early stage. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG - Smart car technology company Ecarx Holdings is exploring going public in Hong Kong once it has completed the planned US listing via a merger with a blank-cheque company, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The firm, backed by Chinese billionaire Li Shufu and his Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., has not decided whether it will raise funds via the Hong Kong listing as considerations are at an early stage, the sources said. A listing outside the Unites States could help Ecarx hedge any potential delisting risks, one of the sources said.

In May, Ecarx agreed to combine with Cova Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (Spac), in a deal that would value the merged entity at about US$3.8 billion (S$5.35 billion). If the transaction proceeds, it could be the largest Chinese listing in the US following Didi Global's spectacular failure.

Ecarx and Cova are still aiming to complete the merger by the end of this year or early next year, pending US regulatory approvals, said one of the sources, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

Deliberations are ongoing and there could be delays, the sources added.

A representative for Ecarx declined to comment, while a representative for Cova did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Many US-listed Chinese companies are trading in Hong Kong as a decades-long stand-off between the two superpowers over access to audit documents could lead to delisting of about 200 firms from New York exchanges. Beijing and Washington last month reached a preliminary deal to allow American officials to review audit documents of Chinese businesses that trade in the US, a first step towards potentially resolving their disputes.

Ecarx's blank-cheque deal is part of Mr Li's efforts to raise billions of dollars through selling stakes in his businesses at home and abroad, as technologies such as electric vehicles and autonomous driving reach critical mass and spur enormous shifts in the automobile universe.

Two other Geely-backed companies - EV maker Zeekr Intelligent Technology and ride-hailing firm Cao Cao Mobility - are weighing initial public offerings in Hong Kong, Bloomberg News has reported.

Founded in 2017 by Mr Li and his associates, Ecarx is an automotive-intelligence technology firm whose products include an autonomous driving system and vehicle central computing systems, according to its website. The company has more than 2,000 employees in China and Europe.

Geely Automobile Holdings invested US$50 million in the firm for a 1.5 per cent stake in September last year. BLOOMBERG

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