VinFast, an electric vehicle maker founded by Vietnam's richest person, is going public through a merger with blank-check company Black Spade Acquisition Co. in what would be the largest-ever US listing by a company from the Southeast Asian country.
The deal will give VinFast an equity value of about $23 billion, according to a statement from the parent company Vingroup JSC on Friday. Including debt, the EV maker will be valued at around $27 billion. VinFast shareholders will own approximately 99% of the combined entity after the transaction, which is expected to close in the second half of this year, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.
VinFast would join a trickle of Asian companies seeking to list in the US through mergers with special purpose acquisition companies even as similar transactions have slowed amid tighter regulatory oversight and lukewarm market sentiment. Smart-car tech startup Ecarx Holdings Inc. went public in the US in December after completing its merger with a blank-check company, while Singaporean TV licensing firm Allrites Holdings Pte this week inked a merger deal with blank check firm Aura FAT Projects Acquisition Corp.
VinFast will also look to break the mold of EV manufacturers struggling after SPAC mergers. Companies that have nearly wiped out shareholders since they combined with blank-check firms the last few years include Nikola Corp., Lordstown Motors Corp. and Canoo Inc. One EV hopeful "- Electric Last Mile Solutions Inc. "- filed for bankruptcy almost a year ago.
A SPAC merger, if successful, will cap VinFast's years-long efforts to become a publicly-traded company. Bloomberg News first reported in early 2021 that Vingroup was considering a $2 billion US initial public offering for the EV unit. The company in April 2022 filed confidentially for the share sale.
The move comes as VinFast steps up its efforts to expand into markets beyond its home country. The EV maker, which plans to build a factory in North Carolina, shipped its second batch of electric cars to North America in April with plans to start delivering to customers in US this month. It also plans to send its first vehicles to Europe in July.
"The partnership with Black Spade and listing of VinFast in the US represents the perfect capital raising avenue for our future global ambitions and is also an important accomplishment for Vingroup," VinFast Chief Executive Officer Le Thi Thu Thuy said in the statement.
Vingroup's founder Pham Nhat Vuong, 54, is the country's richest person, with a $3.9 billion net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He started his own business while studying in Moscow and has said he left Russia with $40,000 in debt. He began a dried-foods company in Ukraine in the early '90s that sold instant noodles and mashed potatoes and sold it to Nestle SA for an undisclosed amount in 2010.
Soon after starting VinFast in 2017, Vuong spoke openly about his ambition to sell cars in the US and personally committed as much as $2 billion to the carmaker. The billionaire last month said he will give another $1 billion to the EV maker within the next year. Vingroup will chip in $500 million and provide a loan of $1 billion for up to five years.
VinFast officially launched three car models and three e-scooters in Vietnam in 2019, according to its website. In 2021, it launched the first batch of EVs and started pre-orders globally for them last year.
Black Spade Acquisition Co. raised $169 million in an US IPO in 2021. The Hong Kong-based blank check firm has said it aims to identify a business combination target related to or in the entertainment industry, with a focus on enabling technology, lifestyle brands, products or services, and entertainment media, its website shows. Its sponsor Black Spade Capital Ltd. is the private investment arm of Lawrence Ho, the chairman and chief executive officer of casino operator Melco International Development Ltd.