Self-Driving Truck Provider Plus and SPAC Call Off Planned Merger

Concerns about Chinese ownership affected acquisition plans, but parties remain hopeful for future relationship.

Plus

Plus has been testing L4 autonomous trucks.

Not every marriage works out. Self-driving truck developer Plus and Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V yesterday announced that they have mutually agreed to terminate their previously announced merger agreement and plan of reorganization. Plus cited “recent developments in the regulatory environment outside of the U.S.” and said it is considering restructuring “certain aspects of its business.” The company said it remained open to future discussions with Hennessy Capital about a potential business combination.

“Plus has achieved tremendous momentum in executing against our plans to bring autonomous trucks to market globally,” stated David Liu, co-founder and CEO of Plus. “In 2021, we started delivery of our driver-in autonomous driving solution, PlusDrive, to customers and received thousands of pre-orders.”

“We also completed a fully driverless truck demo on a highway that showcased the future of trucking,” he said. “We are grateful for the support we have received from the Hennessy team, whose commitment to sustainable commercial transportation technologies we share.”

Founded in 2016, Plus, formerly Plus.ai, said it is developing full-stack SAE Level 4 autonomous trucks. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company claimed that PlusDrive is designed to make long-haul trucking safer, more efficient, and more environmentally sustainable.

Separation anxiety due to foreign ownership

Special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Hennessy Capital (HCIC V) raised $345 million in its initial public offering (IPO) in January 2021 and is listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market as “HCIC.” Nov. 8 was the “outside date” in the original merger agreement for canceling the deal with Plus.

“HCIC was formed to merge with a company that provides sustainable technologies,” said Daniel J. Hennessy, chairman and CEO of HCIC V. “We believe in the potential for autonomous trucks to transform the trucking industry and in Plus’s ability to continue its global deployment of autonomous trucking technology. We remain optimistic that the parties can once again explore a business combination in the near term that will further advance sustainable transportation.”

Last week, FreightWaves speculated that concerns about Amazon.com Inc.'s potential purchase of 1,000 vehicles from Plus, which operates largely in China and has Chinese shareholders, could provoke an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

Neither party will be required to pay the other a termination fee as a result of the mutual decision to terminate the merger agreement.

Plus remains part of autonomous truck popularity

The merger would have yielded about $500 million in gross proceeds at closing, bringing Plus' valuation to approximately $3.3 billion. The company had previously raised $420 million in February.

Other significant transactions involving autonomous trucks this year include TuSimple's $1 billion IPO in April, Aurora Innovation's $1 billion SPAC deal in July, Embark Trucks' $614 million SPAC purchase in June, and Inceptio Technology's $270 million Series B round in August.

Plus has other technology relationships with venture studio Good Machine and Teledyne FLIR, among other U.S.-based companies. It also announced an expansion in Europe last month.


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Plus

Plus has been testing L4 autonomous trucks.


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