Li Auto on Friday announced it had filed an application with the US regulator to offer shares on Nasdaq, making it the second Chinese electric vehicle maker to list on the US stock market after Nio.

Why it matters: The filing confirms a long-running rumor, and enlarges a gap between frontrunners and losers in a slowing Chinese EV market.

  • The winners in China’s EV industry are starting to emerge. Share prices for Tesla challenger Nio hit an all-time high of $14.98 on Friday after it secured lines of credit from six domestic banks totaling RMB 10.4 billion. Meanwhile Byton, as well as several other would-be EV makers, is on the verge of insolvency.

Details: Beijing-based Li Auto Inc. listed a placeholder amount of $100 million for its offering in a Friday filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) without a price range for the shares.

  • Li Auto boasted a higher capital efficiency than most rivals, recording revenue of RMB 851 million ($120 million) and gross profit of RMB 68.3 million in the first three months of this year, according to the filing.
  • The company’s first quarter gross margin of around 8% outperforms rival Nio’s vehicle margin of -7.4% during the same period. Nio has said it expects positive gross margin in Q2.
  • However, Li Auto is bleeding cash along with its rivals, with around RMB 4 billion in total net losses over the past two and half years. Q1 losses had narrowed nearly 80% year-on-year to RMB 77.1 million.
  • Li Auto began delivering in December its first mass market model, the Li One, a plug-in hybrid crossover, and has sold more than 10,677 of the premium PHEVs over the past eight months. To compare, Nio has delivered 46,082 units over a two-year period.
  • Li One, with a starting price of RMB 328,000 ($46,870), was top-ranked in sales volume for all medium-to-large fuel-efficient and electric SUVs in the first half of this year, according to figures from China Automotive Technology and Research Center. The second-ranked Lexus RX450h sold 3,219 units, followed by Nio ES8 with deliveries of 2,435 units.
  • Li Xiang, the company’s CEO and founder, currently holds a 25.1% stake in the company, followed by Meituan CEO Wang Xing with 23.5%. Li will retain around 70.3% of the voting power after the IPO, according to the filing.
  • The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “Li.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and UBS are underwriters for the deal.

Context: Formerly known as Lixiang, Li Auto was founded by internet veteran Li Xiang in mid-2015. Li formed Chinese car-buying portal Autohome.com in 2005 which has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since December 2013.

  • The company closed its $550 million Series D led by Meituan earlier this month. Wang, founder of the Chinese food delivery giant, has been its strongest backer since 2019 when he led Li Auto’s $530 million Series C.
  • Xpeng, another EV startup on the rise, may be following in its footsteps. Reports about the company secretly filing for US listing in June have been circulating in Chinese media. An Xpeng spokeswoman declined to comment.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen