China’s electric car startup Byton to raise up to $400m at $1.2b valuation: Report

The Byton electric concept vehicle Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

China’s electric vehicle (EV) startup unicorn Byton is targeting to raise $300-400 million from a Chinese government investment institution at a valuation of $1.2 billion, according to a China Money Network report.

The deal, which is said to be in an advanced phase of negotiation, would be the second financing received by the company in less than a year after it raised around $200 million at a $750-million valuation in August 2017.

Byton, formerly known as Future Mobility Corp, is seeking the investment as part of its plan to raise $600 million to launch more electric vehicles in the market.

China surpassed the US in 2015 to become the world’s biggest market for new energy vehicles. The country has made electric vehicles a strategic initiative as part of its push to lead in auto technology, curb pollution, especially urban smog, and reduce dependence on imported oil.

Since China opened up the electric vehicle sector to investments from technology firms and other backers outside the industry, there has been a flurry of deals in the space. NIO was reported to have raised more than $1 billion in November last year in a Tencent-led round. In January, electric carmaker Xiaopeng Motors raised $350 million in a funding round led by Alibaba Group and Foxconn Technology Group.

Byton is one of five EV startups in China to have achieved the unicorn status. The other four are Chinese state-backed car maker Beijing Automotive Group’s electric vehicle business unit BAIC BJEV, and venture-backed startups NIO, WM Motor and Xiaopeng Motors.

EV startups have grown rapidly in China, achieving a valuation that took American EV leader Tesla Inc at least six years to achieve. Founded in 2016 by two German automotive executives who have worked in China for decades, Byton took less than two years to reach the unicorn status. The company is currently building a factory in Nanjing in Jiangsu province and plans to make its first production car, priced at around $45,000 for the base model, in 2019.

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