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April 1, 2022 9:47 AM, EDT

Plus Weighs IPO of Non-China Business

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Plus is considering listing its non-China businesses in a U.S. initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter, after the self-driving-truck startup scrapped a merger with a blank-check company.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm is working with advisers to privately raise fresh funds in a round valuing the entire business at about $3 billion, the people said, ahead of a potential traditional IPO for the U.S. and Europe businesses.

Deliberations over an IPO for Plus are at an early stage and no final decision has been made, the people said. A representative for Plus didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment outside of normal business hours.

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Such a listing would follow Plus’ termination of its $3.3 billion merger with U.S.-listed special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V in November, citing developments in the regulatory environment outside of the U.S. The company said at the time that it is pursuing a potential restructuring and might resume discussions with the blank-check firm.

Chinese companies with sensitive data and coveted technology are at the heart of tensions between Beijing and Washington that have been flaring since Didi Global Inc. pushed through a $4.4 billion U.S. initial public offering last June against China’s wishes. A number of Chinese companies including startups Lalamove and Meicai switched their listing destination from the U.S. to Hong Kong, Bloomberg News has reported.

TuSimple Inc., another self-driving truck developer, is considering spinning its China operations off into a separate entity. The firm last month reached an agreement with U.S. authorities to resolve security concerns about its self-driving truck operations and ties with China after it became the subject of a U.S. national security probe.

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Founded by a group of Stanford University classmates in 2016, Plus develops self-driving technology for trucks and counts Sequoia Capital China and logistics startup Full Truck Alliance among its backers. It also has a partnership with European truck maker Iveco SpA and is working with Cummins Inc. on using autonomous technology in natural gas-powered trucks.

Plus and Chinese delivery giant SF Holding Co. last year started a pilot program in which supervised autonomous trucks are deployed on two longhaul routes. The startup is working with state-owned China FAW Group Co. on mass production of their jointly developed autonomous trucks.

Amazon.com Inc. in June placed an order for 1,000 self-driving systems from Plus and has acquired the option to buy a stake of as much as 20%.

— With assistance from Chunying Zhang.