Self-driving truck technology developer TuSimple expects to file a prospectus to sell public stock as soon as next week, according to published reports and people close to the situation.
The company, with offices in San Diego and Beijing, has 50 Level 4 autonomous trucks running paid freight in Southwestern states. Those trucks still have a safety driver who can assume control of the vehicle if necessary. TuSimple is partnering with Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) to sell a long-haul autonomous truck by 2024.
TuSimple filed a confidential s-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December. If the SEC completes its reviews, the prospectus could be made public by next Wednesday. That would allow pricing of the stock and share sales by the end of March.
The filing date could slip, according to people close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment. A TuSimple spokeswoman declined comment Thursday.
TuSimple has about 800 employees, 600 in the U.S. and 200 in China, where TuSimple also has trucks on test routes.
Reportedly seeking minimum $3.5B valuation
China-based media site TechNode reported last August that TuSimple was seeking a valuation of between $3.5 billion and $7 billion. TuSimple was founded in 2015 by Xiaodi Hou, who has a doctorate of philosophy in computation and neural sciences from the California Institute of Technology.
Morgan Stanley is the lead banker on the IPO, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. TuSimple in December hired a new chief financial officer, Pat Dillion, who worked at Morgan Stanley for six years prior, according to his LinkedIn profile.
TuSimple has raised $298 million, most from Chinese sources, in four funding rounds through September 2019. Its major investor, Chinese media company Sina Corp. (NASDAQ: SINA), has participated in all rounds. Chipmaker Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) and truck makers Navistar and its soon-to-be parent company Traton Group also have invested.
Major trucking fleets including Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR), Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN), and U.S. Xpress Enterprises (NASDAQ: USX) recently invested in TuSimple and joined an executive advisory board. TechNode reported the target of the pre-IPO Series E round was $300 million. Forbes reported in November the round raised $350 million.
VectorIQ, a transportation consultancy that also invested in TuSimple, led the round, Forbes said.
Passing on the SPAC route
VectoIQ has started two special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). The first brought electric truck startup Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) public last June. It listed a second $345 million SPAC in January, from which it has two years to pick a target for a reverse merger.
TuSimple decided against taking the SPAC route to public trading. The SPAC frenzy that began in 2020 has seen dozens of young and startup electrification transportation companies, many with no revenue, snapped up in deals with valuations in the low eight figures.
No autonomous trucking companies have entered a SPAC merger.
So far this year, 176 new SPACs, with gross proceeds of $54.6 billion, have been started, according to SPAC Insider. SPACs are essentially shell companies whose investors write a blank check to allow them to hunt a merger candidate.