Chinese electric vehicle (EV) company Weltmeister Motor is rumored to have postponed its scheduled initial public offering (IPO) following negative media coverage of the company. Weltmeister had previously applied to go public on China’s Shanghai Stock Exchange in September 2020, then planned to finalize the IPO work in 2021.
If successful, Weltmeister will become the first EV company to go public in China, while the company’s major rivals, including NIO, Li Auto and XPeng, have all completed listings in the United States.
However, several media reports have suggested a range of issues with Weltmeister’s IPO application. The Shanghai-based EV company faces challenges including a lack of investment in research and development, continuous financial losses and lack of innovative technologies in the company’s products.
Weltmeister continues to vehemently deny such rumours, as Shen Hui, the founder of the company, called the report ‘fake news’. The company later issued a statement indicating that it is preparing to go through its IPO process amid the Chinese Science and Technology Innovation Board’s potential policy changes. However, there is no fixed timeline for the company to go public. Weltmeister also directed media outlets to follow official notices from the Shanghai Stock Exchange for the company’s accurate IPO status.
Founded in 2016, Weltmeister is one of the rising innovative EV manufacturers in China, and has released three fully electric models to date. Its latest sports utility vehicle Weltmeister W6 is expected to be delivered in April 2021.
Yet the company faces challenges as its competitors continue to outpace Weltmeister in overall sales quantity. While the firm ranked top in the number of vehicles sold in 2019 among new EV companies in China, it dropped to fourth place in 2020. The gap has continued to grow after Weltmeister’s competitors successfully launched IPOs in the United States. In 2021, Weltmeister sold about 3,000 vehicles in January and February combined.
Weltmeister also encountered safety concerns in 2020, eventually recalling more than 1,000 vehicles over spontaneous combustion issues with its car batteries. The company pledged to repair the faulty batteries free of charge at the time.
Prior to Weltmeister’s effort to go public, the company has attracted more than 30 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) from seven Chinese local governments, investment banks and Internet companies like Baidu and Tencent. But the company also accumulated a total loss of 11.4 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) in just four years of operation. To survive in the competitive EV market, Weltmeister will need to continue finding opportunities to fund expensive research and development initiatives that can compete with companies like Nio and XPeng.
In 2020, Weltmeister’s major competitor Nio experienced exponential growth to become one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturing companies. With other firms like Xiaomi and Evergrande also taking concrete actions to enter the EV market, Weltmeister is facing even more obstacles to survive in this high-cost industry.
Chinese regulators have also tightened eligibility requirements for companies to go public in the stock market. Media reports suggest that at least 34 companies decided to pause their application to list on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Science and Technology Innovation Board.
The possibility of going public represents a critical question for Weltmeister not only in 2021 but also the years to come, if it aims to compete and survive in the electric automobile market. In an internal corporate email, Weltmeister’s founder Shen Hui said that “Weltmeister is not dead yet, but the company is far from landing into safety.”