General Motors and Nikola Corp. were figuratively all smiles just a few weeks ago, announcing a partnership that would give GM a stake in the nascent EV company, aiding in its development of new technology while helping the electric upstart access to needed production capacity — and now that deal may be in jeopardy.
However, well-placed insiders say there is “no panic” and the company is still hoping to pull together a deal, as one put it “there’s plenty of upside.” Among the key upside benefits is adding scale to the utilization of GM’s new battery technology and assembly facilities. The Badger is expected to be produced at GM’s Poletown plant, which it is currently in the process of converting to EV production, in Detroit.
The two sides are offering only tight-lipped confirmations that talks between the two sides are ongoing about a deal that was originally expected to wrap up Wednesday, according to an 8K filing by Nikola with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The same filing does note that the “subscription agreement may be terminated by either the company or GM Holdings if the closing has not occurred by December 3, 2020.”
“Nikola continues to work with GM towards a closing and will provide further updates when appropriate or required,” a Nikola spokesperson offered in a statement emailed to TheDetroitBureau.com.
GM officials have offered up a nearly identically worded statement, and neither side is offering up any additional insights.
It was a research report issued Sept. 10 by short seller Hindenburg Research claiming fraud, nepotism and several other less-than-flattering allegations about Phoenix-based company that began to complicate the pending partnership pact with GM.
Since the Hindenburg report, other negative information about the company has come to light, including that design of Nikola One, the company’s innovative fuel cell-powered tractor-trailer rig, was purchased from a third party, causing founder Trevor Milton to step down from his role as Chairman and ramping up speculation about whether or not the deal with GM will survive.
Former GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, who also helped pull together the deal between the two sides, has since taken over for Milton.
Milton, who is Nikola’s largest shareholder, has denied some of the charges in the Hindenburg report or downplayed them as irrelevant or simply common practices within the industry. Currently, the company is being investigated by the Department of Justice and the aforementioned SEC, based on some of the information in the report.
Unsurprisingly, shares of Nikola and GM are down on the news of the potential delay of the deal. Nikola was down 5.2% to $18.30 a share, after falling as low as $17.62 earlier in the day. GM’s stock is also down, falling as low as $28.52 a share earlier, but has risen to $28.75, or 2.3% in midday trading.