Smart kicks off a new round of fundraising, attracting up to $300 million in additional capital in a move aimed at strengthening its financial foundations following the launch of its electric #1 and #3 CUV models.
The new investment, confirmed by Smart CEO Tong Xiangbei, is officially backed by the company’s controlling shareholders, Xhejiang Geely and Mercedes-Benz.
They will retain their equal majority share in the Sino-German automaker. However, the existing 50:50 joint-venture shareholding structure in place since 2019 will be altered to reflect the addition of new investors, says the company, which is headquartered in Hangzhou, China.
Among Smart’s new investors is China’s Tianqi Lithium, the world’s leading producer of lithium used in automotive batteries.
Tianqui Lithium is claimed to have invested up to $150 million in Smart.
“Smart is accelerating its global development and operations with strategic investments from global industry leaders,” says Tong, who previously headed up production activities for Geely’s Lynk & Co brand.
Details of the other new Smart investors are yet to be made public due to the ongoing nature of the fundraising, though Wards understands they are predominately Chinese-based.
Smart Automobile, as it is formerly known, was formed in 2019 in a joint venture between Geely and Mercedes-Benz, each of which invested RMB2.7 billion (some $376 million at today’s exchange rates) to establish the company.
Mercedes-Benz’s share was mainly covered by the contribution of the Smart brand, which it has operated since 1994, with Geely providing capital for the establishment of new Chinese-based engineering, design, production and sales facilities.
Since then, Geely and Mercedes-Benz have significantly restructured Smart, originally founded as a city mobility-focused enterprise by Mercedes-Benz and Swiss watchmaker Swatch, positioning it as a direct rival to BMW-owned-and-controlled Mini in a shift away from its city car roots with larger electric-powered CUV-style models in the form of the #1 and #3.
Smart’s new investor, Tianqui Lithium, operates the world's largest lithium mine, the Greenbushes site in Bridgetown, Western Australia, in partnership with the Albemarle Group under the name Talison Lithium. It boasts a current production capacity of 1.34 million tonnes of chemical- and technical-grade lithium concentrate per year, according to Tianqui Lithium.