Another day, another transpotation-related company is going public via a special purpose acquisition company deal. Luminar, a fast-growing maker of laser lidar sensors that help self-driving cars see the world, intends to list shares on Nasdaq NDAQ by merging with a SPAC that raises cash and boosts the startup’s market cap to an estimated $3.4 billion.
Luminar is merging with Gores Metropoulos, an affiliate of The Gores Group investment firm and Metropoulos & Co., and will trade under the ticker “LAZR” upon completion of the deal later this year. The transaction includes $400 million of cash from Gores Metropoulos and $170 million of additional funds from investors including Peter Thiel, Volvo Cars Tech Fund and Alec Gores, among others.
Founded by optics prodigy Austin Russell in 2012, who dropped out of Stanford University after receiving a $100,000 fellowship in 2013 from PayPal PYPL founder Thiel to build up the company, Luminar had raised about $250 million prior to today’s news. The Palo Alto, California-based company in May won a multiyear agreement to supply its high-tech sensors to Volvo Cars, which will use them as part of an autonomous system for consumer vehicles hitting the market in 2022, one of the earliest commercial production deals for the exotic sensor technology.
“This milestone is pivotal not just for us, but also for the larger automotive industry,” Luminar CEO Russell said. “We are making our next industry leap through our new long-term partnership with Gores Metropoulos, a team that has deep experience in technology and automotive and shares our vision of a safe autonomous future powered by Luminar.”
Luminar’s move comes amid a wave of SPAC-based listings in recent months, including Nikola Motor, a maker of hydrogen- and battery-powered trucks, rival lidar sensor maker Velodyne, Los Angeles-based EV startups Fisker Inc. and Canoo and electric truck startup Lordstown Motors. The advantage is a faster, cheaper route to going public and raising funds than a conventional IPO, and one that looks particularly appealing given the runup in major U.S. stock indices this year despite the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lidar’s ability to instantly create detailed 3D, point-cloud maps of a vehicle’s surroundings in daylight or darkness has made it essential technology for virtually every company working to perfect safe autonomous driving, with the notable exception of Tesla. (CEO Elon Musk has described it as a “fool’s errand.”)
Luminar and Gores Metropoulos said the combined company will have an implied pro forma enterprise value of approximately $2.9 billion and an equity value of approximately $3.4 billion at closing. Current Luminar investors will receive about 272 million shares of Gores Metropoulos common stock at closing. The merger is expected to close in 2020’s fourth quarter. Founder Russell, a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum, will continue as CEO, Tom Fennimore will remain as CFO and Alec Gores will join the Luminar board.
Additionally, Luminar said it hired 16 members of Samsung’s Munich-based DRVLINE software team to help strengthen its development team.