JPMorgan has said a Nikola partnership with General Motors may still go ahead, according to seekingalpha.com.
“We believe Nikola and General Motors are still likely to enter into a strategic partnership by 3 December,” analyst Paul Coster wrote in a note cited by the investor website.
“Nikola needs access to GM’s supply chain, engineering resource, the Ultium battery and Hydrotec fuel cells to de-risk the Class 8 truck initiative.
“GM needs to realise a return on billions of dollars of investment in hydrogen fuel cells, and Nikola might be the best available option. The Badger initiative might be of more interest to GM than the post-Milton Nikola, for whom it seems to be a distraction.”
According to SeekingAlpha, Coster also observed the Nikola partnership was already promoted by GM as one of six initiatives that constitute the automaker’s EV ecosystem and it was the only named initiative to exploit GM’s Hydrotec fuel cell technology.
A probable scenario seen by JP for Nikola was the deal closed with the original terms or was re-engineered for a narrower scope that eliminated or downsized the Badger initiative.
Last Friday, Nikola shares fell as much as 10% after the electric-truck startup’s CEO said he saw a path for his company even if it could not come to terms with GM on a proposed strategic partnership.
Talks between the two companies were ongoing but, if a tentative technology sharing and manufacturing deal announced last month fell apart, Nikola would revert to a “base plan” without GM’s help, CEO Mark Russell told Bloomberg in a Thursday interview.
“We have the ability and we have a base plan of doing it ourselves. If we have a partner, that just enables us to consider going faster and helps reduce the risk,” he said. “We’ve proven that over the years that we are a partnership company when those things are available to us.”
GM spokesman Jim Cain declined to comment to Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg report, published by the Detroit News, noted the Phoenix, Arizona based company’s relationship with GM had been the subject of intense scrutiny since Nikola and founder and former chairman Trevor Milton were accused of deception. Both the startup and Milton have denied those claims.
General Motors agreed to receive an 11% ($US2bn) stake in Nikola and gain the right to nominate one director when it announced the deal to engineer, develop and build BEV and FCEV versions of the Badger truck in return.
Bloomberg noted Nikola had stopped referring to the Badger in public statements as talks continued with GM ahead of the 3 December deadline.
Russell had said Nikola was prepared to drop the truck if it could not secure an agreement with an OEM like GM.
“The Badger is part of our discussions with GM. And we’ve been clear all along that we wouldn’t build a Badger without an OEM partner,” he said.
Bloomberg sources said recently GM could push to raise its planned stake in Nikola or seek warrants to guarantee or increase its equity if the company raised more money.
Nikola also had held talks with BP about setting up a network of hydrogen-fueling stations across North America, Bloomberg reported last month. The status of those discussions was unclear but the company had said it planned to announce a partner by year-end, Bloomberg said.
In the interview, Russell confirmed the timeline but declined to comment on BP or specify any other potential partner. But he also said Nikola had a plan to develop hydrogen infrastructure on its own if unable to arrange a suitable alliance.
According to Bloomberg, its other technology agreements including a partnership with Bosch to co-develop fuel cell technology. Two of the Nikola heavy truck prototypes use Bosch’s fuel cells and the company had said the supplier would continue to provide cells for vehicles produced in Europe.
Nikola was also working on a battery electric semi truck to be built next year in Ulm, Germany, in a joint venture with CNH Industrial’s Iveco heavy truck unit. It ultimately planned to make a fuel cell powered [US market style] ‘big rig’ at its own plant in Coolidge, Arizona, which is under construction, the Bloomberg report added.