Velodyne to Merge with Acquisition Specialist
Velodyne Lidar has agreed to merge with a subsidiary of Graf Industrial in a deal that promises to raise $150 million for the Silicon Valley startup, which specializes in lidar for autonomous vehicles.
Current Velodyne backers—including Ford, Baidu, Nikon and Hyundai Mobis—will retain an 80% stake in the combined company. The new entity will be valued at about $1.8 billion when the merger is finalized in the third quarter.
Velodyne, the longtime leader in lidar sensors, has development deals with most major carmakers. The latest cash influx is expected to help fund further development and commercialization of the technology.
The company aims to eventually produce one million lidar units per year at a new factory in California. In addition to applications for fully autonomous vehicles, Velodyne is developing low-cost systems for Level 2-3 systems.
The merger with Graf, which is a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), provides some of the benefits of an initial public stock offering without having to launch a separate listing during volatile market conditions.
Several other companies have made similar deals with SPACs in recent months, including Nikola Motor and online used car marketplace Shift Technologies. Graf raised $225 million in its own IPO in 2018.
Velodyne, which had been considering an IPO for about a year, will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol VLDR as a wholly-owned unit of Graf following the merger.
Founder David Hall will serve as executive chairman. CEO Anand Gopalan will continue to lead the company.
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While there is a burgeoning proliferation of companies that are in the LiDAR space, each with its own take on utilizing laser pulses to create a precise map of its surroundings for purposes of ADAS or full-blown automation, a Seattle-based company has a distinction that certainly sets it apart from its competitors.
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