VinFast, a little-known electric carmaker from Vietnam, debuted on Nasdaq on Tuesday (August 15) and immediately made a splash. Stock skyrocketed 270 percent on its first day of trading and closed at $37 per share, giving the company a market cap above $85 billion at one point, more than Ford and General Motors combined.
VinFast went public through a reverse merger with Black Spade Acquisition Co., a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) based in Hong Kong. SPAC mergers, also known as “blank check” mergers, were a popular way for startups to go public during the pandemic. But as the financial market declined in 2022, dealmaking slowed significantly. In 2021, 610 companies went public through SPAC mergers and raised a total of $161 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. There were only 16 such deals in the first half of 2023, according to the White & Case US SPACs Data Hub.
A SPAC listing doesn’t require the underwriting of an investment bank like a traditional IPO. Therefore, it’s subject to less financial scrutiny and trading tends to be speculative and volatile.
VinFast’s wild rally stood in contrast to the broader market slump last week, but the boom was short-lived. After peaking on Tuesday, VinFast shares plunged 20 percent on Wednesday and fell another 33 percent on Thursday. At press time, shares were trading at $16 apiece, down 56 percent from Tuesday’s peak.
What is VinFast and who are the key people behind it?
Although not a household name in the U.S., VanFast is one of the largest automakers in Vietnam. It produces electric SUVs, scooters and buses and has an EV charging network spanning more than 60 cities and provinces in Vietnam.
VinFast was founded in 2017 as a subsidiary of Vingroup, a major Vietnamese conglomerate. Both companies are founded and chaired by Pham Nhat Vuong, Vietnam’s richest person. Vuong, 55, is estimated to be worth $22 billion, according to Forbes. His fortune rose to $39 billion on Tuesday thanks to VinFast’s stock surge. Vuong controls 99 percent of VinFast through shares held by Vingroup and other business entities, according to the company’s securities registration filing with the SEC in June.
The day-to-day operation of VinFast is headed by CEO Thuy Le, who is also a vice chairwoman of the Vingroup. Before Vingroup, Le was a vice president at Lehman Brothers from 2000 to its demise in 2008.
Like many EV startups, VinFast is not yet profitable. The company lost $1.4 billion in the nine months through September 2022 and carried about $2.5 billion in debt at the end of the period, according to a regulatory filing.
VinFast has released four EV models and delivered about 19,000 vehicles globally. It began delivery in the U.S. earlier this year. In July, the company broke ground on a new factory in North Carolina, which is expected to have the capacity to produce 150,000 vehicles a year.