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Lotus explores IPO options to fund global expansion

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Sports car brand Lotus is eyeing a stock market listing within two years to help fund major international expansion and investment in electric vehicles.

Last year, the historic brand split its business into two business units – the Norfolk-based company making sports cars and a China-based luxury lifestyle company that plans to make electric sports utility vehicles.

Lotus Group, majority-owned by China’s Geely, has now begun exploring a listing of the lifestyle company, aiming to raise capital to help it meet growth targets of a 100x increase. sales over the next six years, one of the company’s top executives said.

The brand plans to sell 100,000 vehicles globally by 2028, a huge increase from the 1,500 sports cars produced by the company’s Hethel plant last year, said Matt Windle, chief executive of the Lotus sports car division, to the Financial Times.

Geely already tapped public markets with its Volvo car float last year, while Volvo-spin-off electric car brand Polestar has announced plans to list in the first half of 2022.

At the center of the new Lotus lifestyle unit is a series of sport utility vehicles that aim to achieve the agile handling of the brand’s sports cars, but broaden its appeal to drivers in China.

The first Lotus SUV, developed by engineers in the UK and Germany, will go into production later this year or early 2023 at a custom-built factory in Wuhan, China.

A sports sedan will follow, with a smaller SUV expected around 2025. The plant, which has been funded by Geely, has a capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year.

“We are in early discussions” about an IPO, Windle said.

Geely bought a 51% stake in Lotus in 2017 as part of its deal to take control of former Lotus owner Proton. The Chinese group has invested more than £3 billion in the company, enabling it to end production of its traditional “analog” sports car range and develop new vehicles.

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The company now has an electric supercar, the Evija, as well as its latest combustion engine sports car, the Emira. It has also developed a platform for the three electric models to be built in China, as well as a dedicated system for manufacturing electric sports cars, which is expected to underpin a new electric supercar from 2025 or 2026.

Renault’s Alpine sports car brand will also produce cars using the Lotus sports car system. These should be made in the UK.

Lotus predicts that by 2028, 10% of sales will be its sports cars, with Chinese-made vehicles accounting for 90%.

Lotus’ senior team held a two-day event in London last week to test investors’ appetites, following similar events in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing last year.

The new Lotus SUV was unveiled at the event, with more details on the model expected to be released later this month.