September 25, 2019 / 7:27 PM / 19 days ago

Nio raising more cash amid cost-cutting campaign

BEIJING (Reuters) - Nio Inc, one of China’s high-profile electric car startups, disclosed a fresh money-raising push this week, saying it had issued $200 million worth of bonds and was accelerating cost-cutting programs to slow cash burn as the company seeks to attract more investors in a slumping market.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese electric vehicle start-up NIO Inc. vehicle is parked in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to celebrate the company’s initial public offering (IPO) in New York, U.S., September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Loss-making Nio is the most prominent among dozens of Chinese electric vehicle startups vying to become the next Tesla Inc. All are hampered by dwindling demand in the world’s largest car market, reduced government subsidies for EVs and nagging concerns over the China-U.S. trade war.

In an unusual move, Nio canceled a scheduled earnings conference call on Tuesday. But it rescheduled the call on Wednesday after the company’s shares touched a record low of $1.97.

The company reported a second-quarter loss of $478.6 million, 25.2% more than its first-quarter loss, after the recall of 4,803 vehicles in June.

Nio’s revenues fell 8% to 1.41 billion yuan ($198.40 million) from 1.54 billion yuan in the preceding quarter. Nio sold 3,140 ES8 cars, down from 3,989 in the first quarter. It sold just 413 of its cheaper ES6 model.

Nick Wang, Nio Group’s head of finance, said the company’s gross margins “will still be negative for the rest of the year.” But Chief Financial Officer Tung-June Hsieh said Nio has made “significant, positive progress” in its latest fund-raising efforts, without providing details.

In May, Nio signed a pact with a government-backed fund for an investment of about $1.5 billion.

Nio also announced a $200 million private placement of convertible notes, split equally between early investor Tencent Holdings and founder Li. Nio had $503.4 million in cash on the balance sheet as of June 30.

CASH BURN

To help cope with cash burn, Nio is expanding its sales network with smaller showrooms called Nio Spaces, according to Hsieh.

Nio Spaces “will allow us to quickly, cost-effectively and meaningfully increase the number of sale points in the market,” Hsieh said. “By the end of 2019, we aim to have established around 200 Nio Spaces in over 100 cities across China.”

Nio will also encourage more regionally driven promotion, introduce a vehicle subscription program and push sales to corporate users and fleet operators.

After reducing headcount to around 7,800 by the end of the third quarter from over 9,900 in January, Nio plans further headcount reduction by the end of this year through both restructuring and spinning off some business units, Hsieh said.

Nationally, sales of new energy vehicles, including EVs, contracted for the second month in a row in August, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Nio led a pack of EV startups and became the first to get internationally listed. It counts Tencent and investor Hillhouse Capital Management among its shareholders and raised $1 billion last year in an initial public offering that valued it at $6.4 billion. However, bankers have said Chinese EV makers face increasingly tough funding efforts while jostling for attention in a crowded sector.

Reporting by Yilei Sun in Beijing; Editing by Tom Brown

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