U.K.’s Giant Battery Factory Developer Looks for a SPAC Deal
(Bloomberg) -- Britishvolt Ltd., the developer of the first giant battery factory in the U.K., is considering going public.
The company has appointed Guggenheim Securities LLC and Barclays Plc as advisers to look into options including listing in the U.S. through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Orral Nadjari, founder and chief executive officer of Britishvolt, said in an interview. The deal could be announced as soon as the end of this quarter, he said.
It’s the first time the company has talked in detail about its plans to finance the 2.6 billion-pound ($3.6 billion) project that will play a central role in delivering Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s green plan. The U.K. has banned sales of new gasoline and diesel cars by 2030, and needs a factory producing batteries for electric vehicles to avoid falling behind in the global race to lead manufacturing for the energy transition.
“The SPAC market is very interesting and is the result of the very mature capital markets in the U.S. that have identified the industrial revolution that is happening now, when we go from the era of internal combustion engine towards an era of electrification,” Nadjari said. “There will be a lot of scale-ups that will need a lot of capital.”
The company hasn’t identified any automotive customers yet, and it’s unclear if any automaker will agree on a supply deal with an upstart that’s still seeking funding. Nadjari, a former investment banker, says he’s not worried.
By 2040, electric vehicles will make up two-thirds of total passenger car sales in Europe, with more 10 million units sold a year. That will make the continent the second-largest EV market, behind China and ahead of the U.S., according to BloombergNEF.
If Britishvolt does agree to a SPAC deal, the target to announce it will be the end of the second quarter or beginning of the third, Nadjari said.
Based in Blyth in northeast England, Britishvolt is planning to launch its series B funding round next week to raise as much as 100 million pounds, with Barclays as its financial adviser, Nadjari said. The round already has “a lot of interest” and series C will follow before summer with a cap of 250 million pounds.
The series A funding round, which closed in February, made William Harrison, chief executive officer of private equity firm Cathexis Holdings LP, the second-largest shareholder, after Nadjari. Cathexis is the family office of Harrison investing from a low of $3 million in niche EV deals, to more than $100 million when buying established companies or financing infrastructure and real estate, according to its website.
“The new rules of origin should provide the conditions for the U.K. automotive industry to succeed,” said Stephen Gifford, chief economist at the Faraday Institution, which researches commercial battery developments. “But, to do so, it is now more important than ever that gigafactories are built in the U.K., and quickly, and with well-developed local supply chains.”
Ministers are determined for the U.K. to stay in the mix of leading battery-makers in Europe. Johnson has committed 1 billion pounds to help build factories that can produce batteries at scale. Britishvolt has applied for some of the funding and is waiting to hear back.
“We have had very fruitful conversations with the government,” Nadjari said. “Definitely government funding is critical for large industrial investment such as Britishvolt.”
The Automotive Transformation Fund will likely support one, if not two, giant battery factories, according to the Advanced Propulsion Centre U.K., the non-profit acting as the delivery partner for the funding. The aim is to see the U.K. punch above its weight for battery making compared with the scale of its auto sector.
|Britishvolt’s Gigafactory in Numbers|
The Faraday Institution estimates the U.K. will need seven giant factories by 2040, each producing 20 gigawatt-hours per year of batteries. Britishvolt is looking at building multiple plants in the U.K., Europe and elsewhere to produce 150 to 200 gigawatt-hours by 2030, Nadjari.
“It’s a very exciting period and there is a lot of money in the capital markets looking at ESG propositions,” Nadjari said. “We are uniquely positioned to potentially become the British champion within the energy industry.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.