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Zeekr, the high-end electric vehicle brand owned by Chinese automaker Geely, will be launched in four Middle Eastern countries next year, stepping up global promotion ahead of a planned launch in the United States.
The brand joins other Chinese electric carmakers, including Warren Buffett-backed BYD, which are expanding overseas as they seek growth amid slowing sales and fierce competition in China.
The $1 billion Zeekr IPO is expected to be the largest U.S. IPO by a Chinese company since ride-hailing giant Didi raised $4.4 billion in 2021. Since then, tensions between China and the United States and Beijing’s stricter cross-border listing rules have frozen listing channels in China.
“Our competitive pricing strategy will compete with traditional premium car brands such as BMW and Audi,” Zeekr Vice President Chen Yu told the Financial Times.
“The Middle East is a relatively new EV market and most markets do not have established brands offering quality EVs,” he said.
As it enters Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, cooperation between China and the Gulf countries is becoming increasingly close, and cooperation between the two parties continues to deepen on many projects.
Zeekr expects to deliver a total of 10,000 units in the four markets by 2025, Chen said, adding that the company is also open to receiving financing from Middle Eastern investors. Zeekr’s car is also expected to be launched in Israel by the end of this year. The company has delivered about 150,000 vehicles in China since 2021.
The Chinese automaker is also expanding in Europe, announcing plans to start sales in stores in the Netherlands and Stockholm in the fourth quarter. But electric carmakers are facing resistance from Brussels, which in September launched a countervailing investigation into the “proliferation” of electric vehicles in China.
The planned Zeekr IPO is the latest attempt by billionaire Li Shufu, owner of Geely Group, to realize the value of companies within his vast empire.
The group previously listed Volvo Cars through a SPAC transaction in 2021 and high-performance electric vehicle brand Polestar through a SPAC transaction in 2022. The group has filed documents to list the Chinese unit of luxury sports car brand Lotus in a SPAC deal.
Chen said that in order to establish a sales network, Zeekr signed agreements with four top car dealers in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on September 28.
Zhang Yele, head of Shanghai consulting firm AutoForesight, said the Middle East market is very suitable for Zeekr cars because “consumers have the spending power to buy high-end electric vehicles.”
Other automakers are also deepening their presence in the region. NIO said it secured $738.5 million in new capital from a fund owned by the Abu Dhabi government in June, while Saudi Arabia signed a $5.6 billion deal with the Chinese parent of high-end electric car brand Hiphi in the same month.
“Moving into the Middle East is actually beneficial to some high-end Chinese EV brands because they face less political resistance than in the U.S. or market,” Zhang said.
Additional reporting by Simeon Kerr in Dubai