Quanergy Systems, the Sunnyvale, California-based lidar company, said Tuesday it has agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition fund CITIC Capital Acquisition Corp., a Chinese blank-check firm affiliated with the country’s largest state-owned investment conglomerate.
The deal, which puts an implied valuation on Quanergy at $1.4 billion, is expected to close in the second half of 2021. After closing, the transaction will inject the lidar company with around $278 million in pro forma net cash, including $40 million in private investment in public equity (PIPE) funding.
Lidar is an essential component of most autonomous driving systems – the notable exception being Tesla’s stack, which is attempting to develop a pure vision-based system to support its pursuit of automated driving (Tesla vehicles are not autonomous today and have what is considered a Level 2 advanced driver assistance system). Quanergy is a developer of solid state silicon lidar units, which pulses a low-power laser through an optical phased array to measure the distance and shape of objects. Historically, lidar sensors involved moving parts – generally some mechanism to rotate the laser so it can scan the surrounding area. The company also develops perception software that interprets the sensor data.
Quanergy has had a bumpy road to the NYSE. The company generated a lot of hype after it announced in 2016 that it had developed a lidar that cost $250 or less (for reference, around the same time Velodyne was selling a lidar sensor for $75,000). The news shot the company to unicorn status and incited talks of a potential initial public offering, Bloomberg reported. But excitement was tempered after Quanergy hit technical roadblocks.
Then the company announced in January 2020 that CEO and co-founder Louay Eldada would be leaving the company. Kevin Kennedy took over as interim CEO, then became the permanent leader in April. Quanergy says it has more than 350 customers and 40 partnerships globally, across both the automotive and internet of things sectors. Its investors include automakers Daimler and Geely, as well as Samsung and Enterprise.
Quanergy says the proceeds from the SPAC transaction will be used to accelerate research and development, pay down debt and fund working capital. Upon closing, Quanergy will be listed on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “QNGY.”
The SPAC, CITIC Capital Acquisition Corp., is sponsored by CITIC Capital Holdings Limited, an investment firm backed by Chinese conglomerate CITIC Group. Quanergy must file for clearance with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The company anticipates CFIUS greenlighting the deal because CITIC would keep its stake in the company below 10%, and Quanergy does not record any personal driver data, Reuters reported.
Quanergy is not the first lidar company to go public via a SPAC merger. Others include AEye, which will merge with CF Finance Acquisition Corp. III at a $2 billion deal, and Volvo-partnered Luminar at a $3.4 billion valuation.