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Vietnamese electric vehicle start-up VinFast’s valuation has overtaken those of Detroit’s “big three” carmakers after shares of the lossmaking company soared on their first trading day.
VinFast closed at $37.06 in New York on Tuesday, well above the $10 price agreed upon when the carmaker merged with a special purpose acquisition company to secure a stock market listing. Its market capitalisation topped $85bn, at least $27bn higher than either Ford, General Motors or Fiat Chrysler owner Stellantis.
VinFast’s billionaire founder Pham Nhat Vuong owns about 99 per cent of its shares, leaving only a small amount available for trading. Only 1.3mn shares of the Spac were able to be traded after earlier redemptions and just $185mn in shares changed hands, according to analysts.
The six-year-old company’s market debut comes after other EV start-ups that listed through Spacs in the US, including Lordstown Motors and Faraday Future, have struggled to raise more cash and in some cases to deliver vehicles.
Many of these companies were “less ready”, VinFast chief executive Le Thi Thu Thuy said in an interview.
“We started manufacturing vehicles five years ago, we have 20,000 EVs on the road. We’ve got every step from product development to supply chain,” Thuy said.
VinFast would be profitable “in the next couple of years” and was “already break-even” in Vietnam, she added.
The carmaker, a unit of Vietnam’s largest private conglomerate Vingroup, has struggled to gain traction in the US, a crucial market for its international expansion.
VinFast stopped making petrol-powered cars to focus on electric vehicles as part of its global attempt to follow in the footsteps of US and Chinese peers including Tesla and BYD. It set up a network of showrooms on the US west coast and last month broke ground on a delayed factory in North Carolina.
But its ambitions have been hampered by problems including questions about vehicle safety and its ability to finance its breakneck expansion. Its founder injected $2.5bn in cash this year.
VinFast’s first shipment of cars to the US in December earned poor product reviews, and the company carried out a big recall after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned of a software error that could increase the risk of a crash.
This year, a plan for an initial public offering was scuppered by what VinFast described as difficult international market conditions. Instead, the Vietnamese group opted to merge with the Hong Kong-based blank-cheque company Black Spade Acquisition and not raise outside money.
Net losses at VinFast in the first quarter were 14.1tn dong ($588mn) against 9.7tn dong in the same quarter the previous year.