Chinese Robotaxi Operators WeRide Files For IPO In Secret
In order to go public in the United States, WeRide.ai, one of the most well-funded Chinese robotaxi operators, has filed in secret, according to a Monday Bloomberg report.
In order to go public in the United States, WeRide.ai, one of the most well-funded Chinese robotaxi operators, has filed in secret, according to a Monday Bloomberg report. The company declined to comment when contacted by TechCrunch.
The past few years have seen significant investments made in China’s autonomous driving startups to support fleet deployment and technology development, which can account for a significant portion of their costs.
Because self-driving is still one of the few industries that excite startup investors despite the fact that the technology is still in its infancy and has not yet been widely adopted commercially, its values have also skyrocketed.
When WeRide raised its Series C round nearly two years ago, its valuation jumped to $3.3 billion. It is said to have raised a new round in March 2022, raising its valuation to $4.4 billion. Pony.ai, its main competitor, was valued at $8.5 billion a year ago.
However, as not many investors are able or willing to sign the large checks that support their late-stage expansion, these capital-intensive robotaxi operators will need to access the public market for capital at some point. According to Bloomberg, WeRide hopes to raise up to $500 million.
However, in recent years, the odds have been stacked against them and other Chinese tech firms seeking US IPOs. As geopolitical tensions rose, U.S.-listed Chinese companies came under increased scrutiny from Washington, particularly for their accounting practices.
Weibo, China’s Twitter, was one of a few companies placed on the US government’s delisting watchlist. Meanwhile, China was increasing regulatory oversight of foreign-listed companies that could pose national security risks through cross-border data transfers. Didi, for example, delisted from New York due to pressure from Beijing.
WeRide witnessed how Pony’s IPO efforts failed. Pony planned to go public in the United States in 2021 with a $12 billion valuation via a SPAC merger, but it later postponed the plan after failing to obtain assurances from Beijing that it would not become the next target of a crackdown on Chinese tech firms going public in the United States.
According to his LinkedIn page, Lawrence Steyn, a former JPMorgan executive, joined Pony as its chief financial officer in 2021 but left in March. There are signs that the wave of Chinese IPOs destined for the United States is gradually resuming. Hesai, a Chinese lidar maker, went public on Nasdaq in February, becoming the largest Chinese IPO in the United States since Didi’s debut.
There are signs that the wave of Chinese IPOs destined for the United States is gradually resuming. The Nasdaq listing of Chinese lidar maker Hesai in February made it the largest Chinese IPO in the United States since Didi’s debut in 2021. Sensing hardware is not as sensitive as a ride-hailing or robotaxi service that owns vast amounts of user mobility data.
However, WeRide appears to have resolved the data security issue. According to Bloomberg, the company “will outsource data collection to an entity that will not be included in the planned U.S. listing.” To date, WeRide has received over $1.4 billion in funding from investors such as Bosch and China’s state-owned carmaker, Guangzhou Automobile Group.