There is a joke about rich men in China that goes something like: If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and invest in electric vehicles.
Well, that’s not exactly true if one considers Faraday Future (FF), China’s answer to Tesla. FF has had substantial losses from billionaires such as China Evergrande chairman Hui Ka-yan and Xu Jiayin in Putonghua. They are still billionaires after making investments with Faraday Future co-founder and chief executive Jia Yueting.
Jia, whom the mainland media says has an ability to land on his feet like a cat with nine lives, has been struggling to find more capital to put into the business, which some liken to burning cash.
But last week he found another lifesaver.
The new knight and a surprise hero on the bloc is The9 Limited, a Nasdaq-listed mobile gaming company, which agreed to set up a 50-50 joint venture with an investment of US$600 million into Faraday. The joint venture will build a new car named the V9 in China and will have a production target of 300,000 electric vehicles as soon as 2020.
How a company with a tiny a market cap of below $30 million can fund such a big investment is a mystery. Shares of The 9 surged over 40% last Monday on the surprise news to $3.34 before collapsing on the same day. The shares ended up dropping 20% to around $2.
Faraday is notorious for having messy relationships with its investors. Evergande, for example, pledged to inject $2 billion at the end of 2017, but withdrew after Faraday quickly burnt the $800 million payment in seven months – much faster than expected. It was only last December that the two sides agreed to share FF’s future EV sales in exchange for handing over assets that open up for other loans and equity financing options.
It was not the first time Mr Jia, who some call the Steve Jobs of China, lost big money.
In 2015, Jia founded Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp (later renamed as LeEco), a video streaming and live broadcaster. He suffered from a huge loss from the business, which was then taken over by Sunac chairman Sun Hongbin, who also refused to make further financial commitments last year.
So, watch this space for more fundraising exercises from Mr Jia for his electric car business.