Autonomous truck startup Plus to go public through $3.3b SPAC merger

Plus, a US autonomous truck startup backed by Sequoia Capital China, plans to go public by merging with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Hennessy Capital Investment Corp V in a deal that values it at about $3.3 billion.

According to a statement on Monday, Plus will generate about $500 million in gross proceeds through the SPAC merger to accelerate commercialisation and expand global operations.

The amount includes $150 million from a private investment in public equity (PIPE) deal, which refers to the practice of private investors buying publicly traded stock at a price below the current price available to the public. The PIPE deal roped in investors, including global asset manager BlackRock, New York-based hedge fund D.E. Shaw Group, and other institutional investors.

Plus will receive another $345 million in cash that was raised when the SPAC conducted its initial public offering (IPO) in January.

The SPAC, also known as a blank-cheque company, was founded by Daniel J. Hennessy in December 2020 to pursue a merger focusing on businesses in sustainable industrial technology and infrastructure sectors. Hennessy is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Hennessy Capital, a US alternative investment firm he created in 2013.

“All of us at Plus are inspired each day to help make heavy trucks safer and more comfortable, reduce operational costs for fleets, and make our world greener. We are on track to start mass production of autonomous trucks this year,” said David Liu, CEO and co-founder of Plus, in the statement.

“This transaction enables Plus to continue growing our business globally, so that fleets and drivers can benefit from our revolutionary technology and usher in a new generation of innovation,” said Liu.

Plus will list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol “PLAV” after the deal completes in the third quarter of 2021. Goldman Sachs was the financial adviser to Plus and Barclays Capital advised the SPAC on the deal.

Before SPAC listing, Plus nets $440m in two months

Silicon Valley-based Plus chose a SPAC listing after swiftly pocketing a combined $440 million over two funding rounds.

It secured $220 million in a deal co-led by private equity (PE) firms FountainVest Partners and ClearVue Partners in March. One month earlier, it had announced securing an investment of $200 million led by Chinese asset manager CPE and securities firm Guotai Junan International.

Plus, formerly known as “Plus.ai,” enables trucks with its mass-production ready, full-stack Level 4 autonomous driving technology to make long-haul trucking more efficient and sustainable. It plans to start the mass production and global deployment of its supervised autonomous driving system, which it claims can reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 10-20% compared to traditional trucks, in 2021.

Founded in 2016, Plus is testing trucks in the US, China, and Europe. In China, the firm has a joint venture with state-owned automaker FAW Group to develop and build autonomous trucks. It also partners with Full Truck Alliance, a Chinese truck services unicorn that also invested in Plus; and SF Express, China’s biggest publicly traded parcel delivery firm, to pilot commercial freight operations.

Its investors include Taiwan-based notebook computer maker Quanta Computer; Greater China-based PE firm Phi Zoyi Capital; New York-based growth equity firm Millennium Technology Value Partners; SAIC Capital, a corporate venture capital (VC) arm of Chinese automaker SAIC Motor; early-stage venture firm GSR Ventures; and China-focused VC Lightspeed China Partners, among others.

Plus’s rival TuSimple, backed by Chinese tech firm Sina’s CEO Charles Chao, this April listed on the Nasdaq through a $1.35-billion IPO at a market cap of $8.5 billion. Banking on a historic boom in US capital markets, other self-driving companies, including Velodyne, Luminar Technologies, and Aeva, have also moved ahead with their listing plans.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.