Los Angeles: One of the world’s largest maritime ports operators led a $50 million (Dh183 million) financing of Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company aiming to transport cargo and people faster and cheaper than existing options.
The loan from Dubai’s DP World Group, a publicly traded company that handles 9 per cent of the world’s shipping containers, raises the prospect that the first hyperloops will be directed at moving goods. Hyperloop One and DP World are studying how a high-speed shuttle shot through low-friction tubes could get containers from the Port of Jebel Ali to an inland terminal in Dubai.
DP World Chairman and Chief Executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said in a statement that the partnership represented “just one example” of his company’s “creativity” and “commitment” toward making operations more efficient.
Hyperloop One’s efforts in the UAE’s most populous city also include a partnership with its Roads and Transport Authority to strategise about developing a network of speedy transit lines. Similar studies are under way in Los Angeles, Russia and Europe.
The funding, announced on Thursday, provides a mark of validation for Hyperloop One as it fights allegations in civil court about impropriety and financial malfeasance among its investors and executives. The company has denied the claims — which include board members allegedly favouring friends and family for Hyperloop One business deals — and is countersuing the four former high-ranking employees who lodged them.
The legal battle began with what the company calls a coup attempt by the four, including co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer Brogan BamBrogan. He and his colleagues said they were trying to ensure employees had more say in strategic decisions and a greater stake in the company.
The requests eventually manifested in several corporate changes including in how much voting power key board members held. On Thursday, Hyperloop One added that DP World’s Bin Sulayem had joined the board. Also new to the board is Ziyavudin Magomedov, chairman of Russian oil and ports conglomerate Summa Group, whose venture capital fund previously invested in Hyperloop One.
The company bolstered its finance team, too, bringing in a full-time strategic adviser to the board and to Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd. Taking the position is Brent Callinicos, the former chief financial officer of transportation company Uber Technologies and a long-time Google and Microsoft accounting executive.
Including the latest funding, the company has raised more than $160 million since launching in 2014. Hyperloop One didn’t respond to a request to comment on the terms of the new loan, which tech news publication TechCrunch reported can be repaid with shares in the company.
Hyperloop One plans to demonstrate a prototype of its technology in the Nevada desert in the first three months of 2017.