Chinese robotaxi operator WeRide.ai has filed to go public in the U.S. and their valuation jumped to $4.4 billon on the news.
Going public should expand the companies base beyond investors. They are seeking to raise as much as $500 million in this initial public offering, according to Bloomberg. WeRide.ai is among several Chinese autonomous driving startups that have been attracting large investments in recent years for developing their technology and expanding their fleet. The company's valuation rose to $4.4 billion at the latest news after rising to $3.3 billion two years ago after it’s Series C round. However, many Chinese tech firms seeking U.S. IPOs over the last several years have faced challenges due to geopolitical tensions and increased regulatory oversight. WeRide's rival, Pony.ai, abandoned its IPO plans in the U.S. last year amid concerns over Beijing's crackdown on Chinese tech firms going public in the country.
The wave of Chinese companies looking an IPO in the US seems to be picking up momentum again. For example, Chinese lidar maker Hesai's Nasdaq listing in February became the largest Chinese IPO in the US since Didi's debut in 2021. While data security concerns have hindered other IPOs in the past, autonomous driving company WeRide appears to have solved the problem by outsourcing its data collection to an external entity that won't be involved in the company's planned US listing. WeRide has received more than $1.4 billion in funding from investors, including Bosch and China's state-owned carmaker Guangzhou Automobile Group.
It's not surprising that WeRide.ai is seeking to raise up to $500 million in its IPO, given the heavy investments being made in Chinese autonomous driving startups, and they significant amount of work remaining for such companies to become profitable. It seems the right move, from a business perspective, despite the geopolitical tensions and regulatory oversight facing Chinese tech firms going public in the US. That Pony.ai failed to go through with their much higher IPO of $8.5 billion shows that there is no guarantee for WeRide.ai. All the same if they don’t move in some direction toward diversifying their financing the investors will eventually be unwilling to float the company.
It's impressive that WeRide.ai has managed to raise over $1.4 billion in funding from major investors such as Bosch and China's state-owned carmaker Guangzhou Automobile Group. Their decision to outsource data collection to an external entity could alleviate concerns about data security, but it remains to be seen how receptive US investors will be to a Chinese autonomous driving company going public in the current climate.
Though there has been a worry that the technical challenge of self-driving, and its potential social, economic, and environmental impacts, might be too much this news is a glimmer of hope. This might be an overall win for society, though predicting the impact of robotaxis is difficult and any prediction that exists is probably wrong in some way more or less.
Written by Adeleh Mohammadi,
RISE Mobility & Systems