HONG KONG - China Evergrande Group, one of the nation's biggest developers, has further signalled its intent in the race to become the nation's top rival to Tesla, with a proposal to list its electric vehicle unit in Shanghai.
The proposal follows the successful listing of two Chinese electric vehicle startups -- Xpeng Motors and Li Auto -- in the U.S, with their shares surging thanks to growing investor interest in green vehicles.
Evergrande, founded and controlled by China's third richest man Xu Jiayin, ventured into the electric vehicle industry two years ago and has made it the group's second important business after property.
Despite being a latecomer, Evergrande has spent tens of billions of dollars on acquisitions, research and building factories and set a goal to become the "world's largest and most powerful" new energy vehicle group within 3 to 5 years.
In a stock filing submitted to Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where its EV unit China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group is already listed, the company said it proposed to issue shares on Shanghai's Science and Technology Innovation Board.
The new tech board, known as the STAR Market, was launched last year to create a domestic fundraising channel for startups at a time when the U.S. financial market was becoming less friendly to Chinese companies due to political tensions. WM Motor, a smaller domestic rival of Li Auto and XPeng Motor, is also seeking a STAR Market IPO as soon as this year, Bloomberg has reported.
China's EV market is increasingly dominated by Tesla and the few more established domestic makers. Evergrande has not reached mass production for any of its car models while Nio, Xpeng Motors, WM Motor and Li Auto already have several models on sale.
Last month the group unveiled six car models under the name "Hengchi", covering all major passenger car categories including sedan, sport utility vehicles (SUV) and multi-purpose vehicles (MPV).
The first model is expected to enter the market in the second half of 2021, according to the company, which ran an intense marketing campaign in Hong Kong and China to convince investors that it is serious about making cars.
Some of the tech industry's most savvy investors are convinced of Evergrande's EV ambition.
Tencent Holdings, Didi Chuxing and a Jack Ma-backed private equity fund, Yunfeng Fund, are among the investors who agreed to join a 4 billion Hong Kong dollar ($516.1 million) fundraising through a share placement for the Hong Kong-listed EV unit of Evergrande.
The company's shares were down 1.6% in morning trade but have surged almost 300% since June amid a recovery in Chinese car sales and investor enthusiasm for a lineup of six models.