For years, start-ups, automakers and other companies have been slowly building chargers, mainly in California and other coastal states where most electric cars are sold. These businesses use different strategies to make money, and auto experts say it is not clear which will succeed. The company with the most stations, ChargePoint, sells chargers to individuals, workplaces, stores, condo and apartment buildings, and businesses with fleets of electric vehicles. It collects subscription fees for software that manages the chargers. Tesla offers charging mainly to get people to buy its cars. And others make money by selling electricity to drivers.
The Transition to Electric Cars
Once the poor cousin to the hip business of making sleek electric cars, the charging industry has been swept up in its own gold rush. Venture capital firms poured nearly $1 billion into charging companies last year, more than the five previous years combined, according to PitchBook. So far in 2021, venture capital investments are up to more than $550 million.
On Wall Street, publicly traded special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have struck deals to buy eight charging companies out of 26 deals involving electric vehicle and related businesses, according to Dealogic, a research firm. The deals typically include an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars from big investors like BlackRock.
“It’s early, and folks are trying to wrap their heads around what does the potential look like,” said Gabe Daoud Jr., a managing director and analyst at Cowen, an investment bank.
These businesses could benefit from the infrastructure bill, but it is not clear how the Biden administration would distribute money for charging stations.
Another unanswered question is who will be the Exxon Mobil of the electric car age. It might well be automakers.
Tesla, which makes about two-thirds of the electric cars sold in the United States, has built thousands of chargers, which it made free for early customers. The company could open its network to vehicles made by other automakers by the end of the year, its chief executive, Elon Musk, said in July.
Mr. Burns’s tenure at Workhorse was decidedly mixed. Workhorse has lost money for years, and its annual revenue was never more than $10 million when Mr. Burns ran the company. One of his initiatives was a bid to supply delivery vehicles to the U.S. Postal Service. While the company was a finalist, it lost to another bidder in February.
Workhorse paid Mr. Burns $1.24 million from 2015 to 2018, according to Equilar, a firm that analyzes corporate compensation. He probably forfeited his stock options at Workhorse by resigning in 2019, but the company gave him a consulting agreement with stock options that Equilar valued at $10.7 million.
What really propelled Mr. Burns and Lordstown was the merger with DiamondPeak.
Backed by some of the principals of the New York investment firm Silverpeak, DiamondPeak raised $250 million from investors when it went public in March 2019, about a year before special purpose acquisition companies became the hottest thing on Wall Street. In securities filings, DiamondPeak said it would probably acquire a real estate business, which made sense because it was led by David Hamamoto, a former Goldman Sachs banker who specialized in that industry.
DiamondPeak decided to buy Lordstown after Mr. Hamamoto was introduced to Mr. Burns in June by Goldman bankers. The deal prospectus said Goldman had known Mr. Burns because of a prior investment banking relationship with him at Workhorse.
Both sides were eager. Lordstown and its backers needed more money, and DiamondPeak was on a deadline to complete a merger to comply with the terms of its initial public offering.
The merger included a fresh investment of $500 million from BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, Wellington Management and others.
Shares of DiamondPeak, later renamed Lordstown Motors, took off even before the merger closed. Some of the sponsors of DiamondPeak were registered in a prospectus late last year to allow them to sell some of their shares in the combined company, along with other investors in the financing deal. Included in the prospectus were some of the bankers at Brown Gibbons Lang, an investment bank, and lawyers with BakerHostetler, a Cleveland-based law firm that reviewed the financing package. Altogether, insider sales have totaled $11 million since the end of December.
LONDON — Coming out of Brexit this year, Britain’s government needed a new blueprint for the future of the nation’s financial services as cities like Amsterdam and Paris vied to become Europe’s next capital of investment and banking.
For some, the answer was Deliveroo, a London-based food delivery company with 100,000 riders on motor scooters and bicycles. Although it lost more than 226 million pounds (nearly $310 million) last year, Deliveroo offered the raw promise of many fast-growing tech start-ups — and it became a symbol of Britain’s new ambitions by deciding to go public and list its shares not in New York but on the London Stock Exchange.
Deliveroo is a “true British tech success story,” Rishi Sunak, Britain’s top finance official, said last month.
It was a false start. Deliveroo has since been called “the worst I.P.O. in London’s history.” On the first day of trading, March 31, the shares dropped 26 percent below the initial public offering price. (It has gotten worse.)
impacts from Brexit were immediate: On the first working day of 2021, trading in European shares shifted from venues in London to major cities in the bloc. Then London’s share of euro-denominated derivatives trading dropped sharply. There’s anxiety over what could go next.
Financial services are a vital component of Britain’s economy, making up 7 percent of gross domestic product — £132 billion in 2019, or some $170 billion. Exporting financial and other professional services is something Britain excels at. Membership in the European Union allowed London to serve as a financial base for the rest of the continent, and the City’s business ballooned. Four-tenths of financial services exports go to the European Union.
The government has begun hunting for ideas to bolster London’s reputation as a global finance center, in a series of reviews and consultations on a variety of issues, including I.P.O.s and trading regulations.
For many, the changes can’t come soon enough.
“The United Kingdom is not going to sit still and watch its financial services move across” to other European cities, said Alasdair Haynes, the founder of Aquis, a trading venue and stock exchange for equities in London. This will make the next three or four years exciting, he said.
But this optimism isn’t universal. The prospects of a warm and close relationship between Britain and the European Union have considerably dimmed. The two sides recently finished negotiations on a memorandum of understanding to establish a forum to discuss financial regulation, but the forum is voluntary, and the document has yet to be signed.
Duff & Phelps found that fewer see London as the world’s leading financial center but that it topped the leader board for regulatory environment.
Here are some of the plans.
Mr. Sunak told Parliament on March 3, the same day a review commissioned by the government recommended changes designed to encourage tech companies to go public in London. It proposed ideas, common in New York, that would let founders keep more control of their company after they began selling shares.
For example: allowing companies with two classes of shares and different voting rights (like Facebook) to list in the “premium” section of the London Stock Exchange, which could pave the way for them to be included in benchmark indexes. Or: allowing a company to go public while selling a smaller proportion of its shares than the current rules require.
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The timing of Deliveroo’s I.P.O. wasn’t a coincidence. It listed with dual-class shares that give its co-founder William Shu more than half of the voting rights for three years — a structure set to “closely align” with the review’s recommendations, the company said.
But the idea may be a nonstarter among some of London’s institutional investors. Deliveroo flopped partly because they balked at the offer of shares with minimal voting rights.
the latest craze in financial markets, having taken off with investors and celebrities alike. SPACs are public shell companies that list on an exchange and then hunt for private companies to buy.
London has been left behind in the SPAC fervor. Last year, 248 SPACs listed in New York, and just four in London, according to data by Dealogic. In March, Cazoo, a British used car retailer, announced that it was going public via a SPAC in New York.
Already there are signs that Amsterdam could steal the lead in this booming business for Europe. There have been two SPACs each in London and Amsterdam this year, but the value of the listings in Amsterdam are five times that of London.
Britain’s financial regulatory agency said it would start consultations on SPACs soon and aim to have new rules in place by the summer.
regain ground lost to Germany, France and other European countries on the issuing of green bonds to finance projects to tackle climate change.
The City’s future
London’s finance industry isn’t in danger of imminent collapse, but because of Brexit a cornerstone of the British economy isn’t looking as formidable as it once did. And as London tries to keep up with New York, it is looking over its shoulders at the financial technology coming out of Asia.
The government has continuously billed Brexit as an opportunity to do more business with countries outside of the European Union. This will be essential as international companies begin to ask whether they want to base their European business in London or elsewhere.
When it comes to the future of Britain, it’s “almost a back-to-the-future approach of London as an international center as opposed to being an international and European center,” said Miles Celic, the chief executive of the CityUK, which represents the industry. “It’s doubling down on that international business.”
The age of electric planes may still be years away, but the fight for that market is already heating up.
Wisk Aero, a start-up developing an electric aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, on Tuesday sued another start-up, Archer Aviation, accusing it of stealing trade secrets and infringing on Wisk’s patents.
The lawsuit brings into public view a dispute between two little-known companies in a business that has become a playground for billionaires. It also entangles giants of aviation and technology. Wisk is a joint venture of Boeing and Kitty Hawk, which is financed by Larry Page, who co-founded Google. Archer’s investors include United Airlines, which is a major Boeing customer and plans to buy up to 200 aircraft from the start-up.
The niche market for electric vehicles and planes has become frenzied in recent months as so-called blank check companies, which have little more than a stock market listing and a pot of cash, have snapped up fledgling businesses with little or no revenue, let alone profits. Investors in the blank-check firms — formally known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — are hoping to acquire businesses that they believe could follow Tesla’s recent trajectory on the stock market. To entice those investors, start-ups like Archer promise top-notch technology and optimistic business plans.
the lawsuit accuses two engineers of downloading thousands of files containing confidential designs and data before leaving Wisk to join Archer. Wisk accused a third engineer of wiping history of his activities from his computer before leaving for Archer.
“Wisk brings this lawsuit to stop a brazen theft of its intellectual property and confidential information and protect the substantial investment of resources and years of hard work and effort of its employees and their vision of the future in urban air transportation,” the lawsuit says.
Archer denied wrongdoing.
“It’s regrettable that Wisk would engage in litigation in an attempt to deflect from the business issues that have caused several of its employees to depart,” Archer said in a statement. “The plaintiff raised these matters over a year ago, and after looking into them thoroughly, we have no reason to believe any proprietary Wisk technology ever made its way to Archer. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
Archer also said it had placed an employee accused in the suit on paid leave “in connection with a government investigation and a search warrant issued to the employee, which we believe are focused on conduct prior to the employee joining the company.” Archer said it and three employees who had worked with the individual had been subpoenaed in that investigation and were cooperating with the authorities.
accused one of its former employees and Uber of stealing trade secrets to gain an advantage in the race to develop autonomous cars. The companies settled the case in 2018, and the former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, a onetime confidant of Mr. Page’s, was sentenced in 2020 to 18 months in prison. Former President Donald J. Trump pardoned Mr. Levandowski in January.
Archer announced its merger in February with a SPAC, Atlas Crest Investment, in a deal that valued the company at $3.8 billion. Wisk said its suspicions were confirmed at that time when Archer released a presentation that contained designs similar to those in a Wisk patent filing.
when announcing the transaction.
“We had 35, 40 people on this — and we attacked this like venture growth would or anybody else,” Mr. Moelis said. “And we did it fast, too.”
A spokeswoman for Moelis declined to comment.
Other companies trying to make electric aircraft include Joby Aviation, which announced a $6.6 billion deal with a SPAC led by the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman in February, and the German start-up Lilium, which went public last month by merging with a SPAC led by a former General Motors executive, Barry Engle.
according to SPAC Research — more than in all of 2020.
But regulators and some investors say more scrutiny is needed. The Securities and Exchange Commission published two notices last month warning companies considering merging with SPACs to ensure that they are ready for all the legal and regulatory requirements being a public company entails. Many investors known as short sellers, who specialize in betting that share prices of companies are bound to fall, have targeted SPACs like Atlas Crest, which is among the 20 most-shorted SPACs.
The market for electric aircraft is in its infancy but holds huge promise. The prospect of “Jetsons”-like flying vehicles has inched closer to reality in recent years thanks to advances in battery and aircraft design. A high-stakes race to build the first viable electric plane is underway, and some airlines are betting that such vehicles can help them reach their goals of eliminating or offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.
Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United, said the Archer aircraft were unlikely to be used for commercial flights but were ideal for short trips to and from an airport.
“They’re not only more environmentally friendly, they’re far quieter than a helicopter,” Mr. Kirby said Tuesday during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “And, because they have 12 rotors, they’re, I believe, going to ultimately be safer.”
Still, widespread use of electric air taxis is likely years away. Such aircraft may never become more than a luxury used by very rich people because businesses and governments may come up with far cheaper ways to transport people without emissions.
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Many companies made changes to survive the pandemic. For tech companies, the changes were also about seizing opportunities to thrive as life abruptly moved online. Few companies have juggled these risks and rewards in as many industries, across as many countries, as Prosus, an Amsterdam-based conglomerate that in 2019 was spun out of Naspers, the South African tech and media giant.
Prosus’ holdings run from e-commerce and classifieds to food delivery, fintech and more. The group is valued at around $180 billion, which makes it one of continental Europe’s 10 largest companies. It operates in more than 80 countries and owns sizable stakes in the internet giants Tencent of China and Mail.ru of Russia. The companies that Prosus controls employ around 20,000 people, and many more work as contractors or at companies in which Prosus holds smaller stakes.
Uber, DoorDash and others. But Prosus companies like Delivery Hero and iFood took steps to help preserve long-term good will with its partners at the expense of short-term profits. In Brazil, for example, “we paid restaurants much quicker than we usually did,” Mr. van Dijk said. “From a cash-flow point of view, that was actually pretty important” in keeping restaurants in their good graces, reducing potential tensions between restaurants struggling during the pandemic and online delivery apps seeing demand soar.
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It was a similar story in India for classifieds. “We reduced fees substantially, or we waived fees,” he said. “That allowed people to preserve cash. When things started to come back again, there was a lot of appreciation around that.”
digital services taxes throughout Europe, meant to collect more revenue from multinational companies that do extensive business in countries without much of a physical presence within their borders. Those wouldn’t apply to Prosus, Mr. van Dijk said — “we invest locally and pay taxes” — but he added that the charges could erode the industry’s profit margins.
“I understand where it comes from,” he said, but “sometimes the regulation is a little blunt.”
What could hurt Prosus, Mr. van Dijk said, are changes to the gig economy, particularly efforts to entitle delivery drivers to worker benefits. Some drivers prefer the flexibility of being contractors, he said, and “we try to pay people properly regardless of what the legislation is.” As far as he could recall, Prosus has never lobbied against classifying workers as employees, as rivals like Uber have.
Another area to watch is China, which has moved to rein in some of its homegrown internet behemoths. Though officials have focused largely on Alibaba, Tencent hasn’t escaped their gaze: The company, which Prosus bought into back in 2001, was among those fined last month for violating antitrust rules. It is Prosus’ single biggest investment, and a tougher crackdown could batter the conglomerate’s market value.
Despite the stakes, Mr. van Dijk downplayed the threat. “Our impression is that China is still very supportive of its tech giants,” he said.
Adevinta of Norway for $9.2 billion. That defeat followed a losing effort to acquire the restaurant delivery company Just Eat, which Takeaway.com bought for $7.8 billion.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. van Dijk said Prosus hadn’t encountered much competition from special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, which have raised nearly $100 billion this year and are very active acquirers of tech companies. This may be in part because SPACs are largely a U.S. phenomenon, although other countries have been trying to court the blank-check firms.
Mr. van Dijk said Prosus might eventually find itself competing with SPACs, particularly for later-stage private companies. In the meantime, Prosus itself invested $500 million in a SPAC last year when the shell company merged with Skillsoft, an education technology firm.
Lately, Prosus has mostly been investing in its existing businesses. “Putting money into there is still a good idea,” Mr. van Dijk said. And a few months ago the company announced that it would buy back $5 billion of its shares.
Things are looking slightly more measured these days, Mr. van Dijk said, with valuations coming down “to much more sustainable levels.” For a serial dealmaker, that means opportunity: “It’s easier to do acquisitions in a market that is cooling off.”
A former Citigroup analyst in New York who left investment banking last summer said that in normal times managers would often be busy traveling, or would leave the office at night, which allowed analysts periods to focus on their existing work without being assigned new tasks. Those breaks disappeared during the pandemic.
“They were always available and working late,” he said of his managers during the pandemic. “They knew we were stuck working late. We couldn’t do anything else. So there was no separation from work and home.”
The analyst, who worked at Citi for three years, said virtual work was particularly hard on the first-year employees. “They weren’t able to learn how to be a banker in the office. They learned it virtually, and it’s so much harder,” he said. Working virtually, he believes, has also made it more difficult for new analysts to support each other. “They just get the downside to banking,” he said. “They don’t get the upside, the relationships.”
JPMorgan and Citigroup declined to comment.
As the work has become more isolating, the amount of it has exploded. At this point in the year, according to Dealogic, the value of debt issues are running a third higher than the previous 10-year average, acquisitions are more than double, and initial public offerings are some 15 times higher, propelled by the surge in blank-check shell companies known as SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies.
“We recognize that our people are very busy, because business is strong and volumes are at historic levels,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement in response to the first-year analysts’ presentation. “A year into Covid, people are understandably quite stretched, and that’s why we are listening to their concerns and taking multiple steps to address them.”
On Sunday, Goldman’s chief executive, David Solomon, sent a memo to employees in which he promised to enforce the firm’s policy against working on Saturdays, to shift bankers to the busiest desks and to hire more entry-level employees. A day later, Citi’s C.E.O., Jane Fraser, introduced “Zoom-free Fridays” and said that most employees could work from home for two days per week when the firm reopens its offices.
Other banks decided to work in the medium they know best: Money. Credit Suisse on Wednesday said that it would give lower-ranking employees a $20,000 bonus to acknowledge their work during a period of “unprecedented deal volume.”
He and his partner in Slam Corp, the hedge fund manager Himanshu Gulati, are looking to acquire a business in the sports, media, or health and wellness industry — but not a sports team, he said. (Mr. Rodriguez was also an investor in the telehealth company Hims and Hers, which went public in a SPAC transaction valuing the firm at $1.6 billion last year.)
Rich Kleiman, manager and business adviser to Kevin Durant, the All-Star forward for the Brooklyn Nets, said having an athlete on an advisory board of a SPAC might help get a meeting with a company. Mr. Durant, he said, had been approached about such an arrangement but decided against it because he would have little control over the company’s direction.
While Mr. Durant, who with Mr. Kleiman runs a growing media and investment company, Thirty Five Ventures, has fielded suitors, other athletes are reaching out on their own.
Forest Road, an investment firm, was the entry point for Mr. O’Neal, who was already an investor there when he contacted its chief executive, Zachary Tarica, about getting involved in its growing SPAC business. Mr. O’Neal was an adviser on its first SPAC, which last month announced plans to buy Beachbody, a digital fitness company, at a $2.9 billion valuation. He’s now an adviser on a second Forest SPAC.
Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney and TikTok executive who advised the first SPAC and is helping lead the second, described Mr. O’Neal as “a real businessman,” although he cautioned against investing in a particular venture just because a famous person was involved.
“If anyone were to ask me, I say you should definitely not invest in this SPAC because there’s a sports star or any single person,” he said. “They should look at the totality of the investment.”
Securities regulators have taken notice of the celebrity-endorsement trend, which has also attracted nonathletes ranging from Sammy Hagar to Jay-Z. The Securities and Exchange Commission put out an investor alert on March 10 cautioning retail investors not to buy shares of a SPAC simply because some boldface names are attached to it.