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Bezos-backed electric carmaker Rivian in biggest US float since Facebook

Bezos-backed electric carmaker Rivian in biggest US float since Facebook

Company was briefly worth over £100bn after flotation, more than Ford or General Motors

The Jeff Bezos-backed electric carmaker Rivian has raised more than $11bn in a stock market sale that briefly valued the company at more than $100bn in one of the world’s biggest ever floats.

The share sale on Wednesday was the largest since Facebook in 2012 and valued Rivian higher than Ford or General Motors, even though before the sale the company revealed it had lost more than $2bn since the start of last year and had delivered just 53 vehicles by the end of last month. It plans to deliver 1,000 by the end of the year.

Backed by investors including Amazon, Ford and the Saudi investment firm Abdul Latif Jameel, which made its fortune in oil, the share sale is further proof of investors’ appetite for the electric vehicle market. Rivian is setting itself up as a rival to Elon Musk’s Tesla, which is worth more than $1tn.

Rivian announced late on Tuesday that its shares would start trading at $78 each, significantly above the $52 a share lower end of the range it had first targeted. When the shares started trading on the Nasdaq stock market they were priced at $106, valuing the company at $90bn, but rose in early trading, pushing Rivian’s value past $100bn before ending the day worth $86bn.

More than 20 investment banks are involved in running the sale, led by Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

The raised price reflects the huge demand for shares in electric carmakers on the day that a series of auto companies and countries pledged to move away from fossil fuels by 2040 or earlier at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow.

The surge in interest has propelled Tesla, the electric car pioneer, into the ranks of the world’s trillion-dollar public companies.

Unlike Tesla, Rivian is yet to record meaningful revenues, let alone profits. It revealed losses over 2019 and 2020 of $1.4bn plus borrowing of $2.5bn when it filed for the offering in October.

However, Rivian has the advantage of backing from Amazon, founded by Bezos, the world’s second-richest person after the Tesla boss, Elon Musk.

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The company was launched in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, a 38-year-old entrepreneur with a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scaringe owns a relatively small 1.7% of the company but has options to buy more shares that could catapult him into the ranks of the super-rich if the company proves a hit with investors.

The share sale opens the latest round in the rivalry between Musk and Bezos. Amazon owns 20% of Rivian, and Bezos rode in one of the company’s prototype electric SUVs to the launchpad of his spacecraft in July, in effect providing advertising for the carmaker.

Amazon has committed to buying 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from the startup by 2025.

Rivian’s debut product, the R1, will be available in pickup or SUV varieties, competing with Tesla’s Model X and electric SUVs from older manufacturers such as Ford and Audi as well as from newer entrants including the US’s Fisker and Canoo, and China’s NIO.

Rivian will manufacture the R1 and commercial vans at a factory in Normal, Illinois. However, Irvine in California is home to the car’s engineering and design, including crucial work on propulsion and battery technology.

The company could make revenues of between $20bn and $25bn by 2025 if it can produce 350,000 vehicles annually at that plant, according to Chris McNally, an automotive analyst at Evercore ISI investment bank.

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