Faraday Future takes ‘tough decision’ to send more workers on leave

Electric carmaker Faraday Future (FF) is placing another batch of employees on leave, citing the company’s “very tight cash flow.” The move comes as founder Jia Yueting comes under pressure from another ailing company he founded that wants him to use FF assets to repay it.

“This was an extremely tough decision to make, and we recognize the emotional stress and financial strain this puts on people’s personal lives,” FF said of the temporary layoffs in a statement posted to Twitter.

It added that it takes its relationships with its suppliers “seriously,” and hopes it will receive support from its partners.

Some 250 more Faraday Future workers may have been placed on furlough, unnamed sources told The Verge. The company says it now has 1,000 workers globally. Before this past October, however, it employed 1,000 people in the US alone. That month, Faraday lost its co-founder Nick Sampson and other staff after a series of furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts.

Faraday’s admission of more furloughs comes after developments in its ongoing dispute with its main shareholder, a subsidiary of Chinese property conglomerate Evergrande. The cash-starved EV startup wrangled permission to seek $500 million in emergency funding, pending Evergrande’s approval. However, it failed to loosen the company’s hold over its assets, which include intellectual property.

In its recent Twitter announcement, Faraday repeated its claims about Evergrande breaching contract, making it difficult for the startup to find funding. Although it will file another application for emergency relief with its Hong Kong arbitrator, it expects the “ruling may be delayed by two to three months.”

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Evergrande rescued Faraday from its financial straits in December 2017 with a promised $2 billion investment, to be paid out over time. The two companies then became linked through a network of offshore companies and Evergrande Health gained a 45% stake in Faraday.

The two have since quarreled over a promised $700 million advance, which Faraday claims Evergrande has not fulfilled. Evergrande says Faraday’s co-founder and main backer, debt-ridden Chinese tech tycoon Jia Yueting, has not held up his side of the bargain by stepping away from the company’s China operations.

Faraday has also been accused of withholding money from “key suppliers,” with numerous contractors filing lawsuits against it.

The company says it is still “receiving interest from investors from around the world.” No mention was made of an earlier claim by a blockchain EV startup that the two were negotiating a $900 million security token offering.

Despite the cash crunch, Faraday also doesn’t mention any changes to plans for its first vehicle, the FF91. The company previously promised to begin production in California by the end of 2018.

The electric vehicle startup’s main backer Jia Yueting is facing pressure from debt-ridden Leshi Internet, the Chinese streaming giant he founded, reports the Securities Daily (in Chinese).

At the end of October, around the same time, Faraday experienced a cash squeeze, and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange froze Jia’s roughly 25% stake in Leshi due to unpaid debts. In June, the former company head was banned from luxury travel for a year after reneging on loan payments.

With over RMB 90 million (around $131 million) of its assets now frozen, the company insists Jia pay up using assets or equity from Faraday, if necessary.

Leshi Internet, also known as Le.com, faces a lawsuit by Tianhong Innovation. According to Tianhong, which was a Series B investor in streaming service LeSports, the company’s original shareholders had agreed to repurchase their stakes if LeSports failed to IPO by the end of 2018.