Stock Market

The Honeymoon Is Over for Lucid as the SEC Investigates Its Merger

Wall Street has been on a honeymoon with Lucid Motors (NASDAQ:LCID) stock since it went public in July. But that’s over now, as investors have taken profits and LCID stock has fallen steadily since mid-November.

The Lucid Motors (LCID) logo is displayed in front of an ad for the Air sedan.

Source: T. Schneider / Shutterstock.com

Things could get rockier following a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission related to the merger. Regulators want to know about the relationship between Churchill Capital IV, the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that became Lucid, and Atieva. This was Lucid’s name when it was founded in 2007 by former Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) board member Bernard Tse.

The Days Before the LCID Stock Debut

Tse is a veteran technology executive. Tech reporters with wrinkles will remember him as one of the founders of Wyse Technology. Wyse made what were called “thin client” devices, meant to be linked to networks, back in 1981. Wyse is now part of Dell Technology (NYSE:DELL). Tse was also on the founding board of Tesla in 2003, pre-Musk.

Tse founded Atieva to make batteries and software as a third-party developer. The company raised $131 million while still in “stealth mode.” Along the way it switched to being a car outfit, hiring former Tesla engineer Peter Rawlinson and other Tesla alumni. It also changed its name to Lucid.

Lucid is known for having backing from the Saudi Arabian government. But previously, Tse won backing for Atieva in China with partnerships with companies like state-owned Baic Motor (OTCMKTS:BCCMY) and privately-held LeEco.

Since then, LCID stock has gained attention as a promising electric vehicle stock. After making waves in this crowded field, the SEC subpoena threatens to push its price down even further. Lucid says it is cooperating with the investigation.

Lucid vs. Tesla

Meanwhile, the feud between Musk and Rawlinson grows more serious. For example, Musk tweeted in May that Rawlinson was never Tesla’s chief engineer. Archives of the Tesla website, blog posts and videos dispute this.

The two have also gotten into it over battery technology. (Remember that Atieva was founded to make batteries.) The Lucid Air is known for having 500 miles of range and for charging quickly. Rawlinson has criticized Tesla’s new 4680 cylindrical battery format, designed for lighter weight and better output. Battery expert Sandy Munro has called Rawlinson’s criticism “crap.”

This is happening against the backdrop of continuing stellar reviews for the Air. It was recently named “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend magazine, which marks the first time the award has gone to the first product of a new company.

But investors saw that award as their excuse to take profits. As I noted at the time, Lucid was then selling at 50 times its potential 2022 sales. I estimated it could bring in $1.55 billion next year based on 20,000 Air reservations. At the time, Lucid stock was selling around $55 per share.

Recent action has only taken that down to $44 per share, even with a plunge of more than $6 in light weekend trading. Tesla stock was recently trading at just 16 times revenue, although its price has also been dropping fast over the last few weeks.

The Bottom Line on LCID Stock

LCID stock, like Rivian (NASDAQ:RIVN), is seen as a competitor with Tesla because of big backing. Rivian’s comes from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). They also make competitive products and don’t have the “technology debt” of companies like General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford Motor (NYSE:F), which still make gas-powered vehicles.

But success is not guaranteed for LCID stock. The Tesla obsession caused both Lucid and Rivian to deliver tech-heavy, expensive vehicles. I believe the center of the coming market will be more utilitarian. I also believe electric car designs are just platforms for batteries in the end, so watch that space.

On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held a long position in AMZN. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial journalist since 1978. His latest book is Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, essays on technology available at the Amazon Kindle store. Follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn

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