In the good old days when the most controversial thing about Nikola was the lack of revenues, the energy vehicle startup touted the deals it had struck with major companies as a testament to its bright future. Now some of those companies are stalling on closing their agreements. Last week, it was supermajor BP. Now, it is General Motors’ turn.
GM was initially scheduled to close the deal with Nikola by September 30. Under the agreement, GM was to get a stake in Nikola and get paid for manufacturing and supplying its battery and fuel cell technology.
On Tuesday, GM revealed that the “discussions” were continuing, a sign of possible hesitancy. While the deal could still go ahead, it shows that GM might choose to wait till the dust settles on Nikola’s mounting scandals.
GM should not waste the opportunity; this is a golden chance for the world’s fifth-largest auto manufacturer by revenues to demand a better deal.
Here is why GM should not close the deal until the offer has been sweetened.
Before GM announced intentions to partner with Nikola, the energy mobility startup had few known controversies that were considered deal-breakers. But a report by short-seller Hindenburg Research has changed the outlook. The report branded Nikola a “fraud” and accused the company of deceiving investors.
Already, investors who put their money into Nikola are lining up to sue.
The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Nikola, too.
Additionally, sexual harassment and abuse allegations against the company’s founder Trevor Milton have surfaced. While they have nothing to do with Nikola, it will mean that the negative press on the firm is not about to end.
All these scandals have demonstrated that GM is taking on a reputational risk by partnering with Nikola. Without an enhanced deal, it’s not worth GM’s time anymore.
Morningstar’s David Whiston recently quipped:
The biggest risk right now is the risk of a huge PR black eye for Mary Barra (CEO of GM) and the firm.
After the deal was announced earlier in September, the stock had risen to slightly above $50. Since hitting record highs of $93.99 after going public, Nikola’s shares have lost over 80% of their value.
GM should renegotiate this to account for the Nikola’s depressed share price.
In addition to an 11% stake, GM was to receive a $700 million payment to build the Nikola Badger truck. As of June 30, Nikola had $698 million in cash. The figure should be lower now as cash outflows far exceed the inflows.
In the quarter ending in June, for instance, Nikola posted a loss of $46.98 million. The company generated only $36,000 in revenues from its solar business, a division that is set to be shut down.
With the damaging allegations that have surfaced over the last few weeks, especially the claims of misleading investors, Nikola’s ability to raise funds is now in doubt.
For the deal to continue, GM should demand an upfront payment in full before it carries out any undertaking, if it hadn’t already done so.