Rivian Automotive, the battery startup out of Reno, Nev., reached a deal with banks to underwrite a public offering as early as late October.
The company will likely seek an evaluation that’s over $50 billion, said one person familiar with the matter, a figure that could trump the $30 billion valuation Rivian held in the “unicorn” category of venture-backed companies with a value of more than $1 billion. The terms of the offering, which could occur before the end of the year, were not known, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.
Rivian’s growth has put pressure on existing investors, who are likely considering exiting. The company’s private investors include Ray Lane and Ron Conway, both of whom backed the now defunct Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk in his effort to take over the electric-car maker.
In a sign of demand for the company’s lithium-ion batteries, Cloudera Chief Executive Officer Tom Reilly hired Vivint Solar Inc. CEO Pat Russo to become Rivian’s first non-investor chairman in May. During his tenure at Vivint, Russo built the solar provider into a $4 billion business that now operates in 45 states and accounts for about 6 percent of the U.S. residential solar market.
The West Coast’s battery industry has been heating up as Elon Musk’s Tesla joins the fray with a new energy-storage unit in Nevada and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in California and Southern California hopes to launch a $7 billion program later this year to buy that same technology to bolster its renewable energy portfolio. Even so, Rivian, which is still eight months away from commercial production, is the furthest along.
Dublin-based battery maker Ener1 Inc. filed for an IPO in May 2017 before withdrawing the paperwork after a memo alleging sexual harassment was made public. The revelation had the same effect as the Fusion story, which caused one of its reporters, Emily Chang, to resign and a former employee filed a lawsuit against the company. Both lawsuits are still pending.
John Grahn, an executive vice president at Rivian who ran the lithium-ion battery business at Tesla until this year, left the company in May, the same month Rivian hired Russo. With a total staff of just more than 300, Rivian has been growing quickly this year to supply the competitive-pricing battery packs and mounting hardware for other manufacturers, which still haven’t made their entry into the market. The company also made its maiden foray into the Middle East in June, signing a three-year, $16 million contract with United Airtricity to build storage capacity in Dubai, the Middle East’s largest energy market.
In a statement Wednesday, Rivian said it has hired new advisers, including Evercore Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and that it’s also working with Moelis & Co. on its IPO plan. Goldman Sachs and Moelis declined to comment, while Evercore did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— With assistance by Alex Webb, Caitlin Dewey, Lynnley Browning, and Brent Kendall