Volvo Cars will focus on product and vehicle development rather than rush a potentially ill-timed IPO, chairman Håkan Samuelsson said following his re-appointment to the role for another four years.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Samuelsson said current market conditions were “not optimal to give certain upside for the investors”. He said the IPO was “still an option, a very realistic option,” but needed to happen at “optimal” timing, which was not the case in the short-term. He added any final decision rested within Li Shufu, chairman of Volvo Cars parent Geely.
Volvo has been looking into a stock exchange float for almost two years now, lining up advisors the likes of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs as recently as May. Its ownership structure could have led to a dual listing in native Sweden and China.
Geely was aiming for an ambitious valuation of between $16bn (£12.3bn, €13.8bn) and $30bn for the back-from-the-ashes Nordic carmaker. But advisors placed its market value much lower in the $12bn to $18bn range, Bloomberg News reported in July.
Additionally, the USA-China trade war shook carmakers’ supply chains worldwide, and also had the effect of shaving value off Chinese equities.
While Geely – which rose to become one of China’s most prominent and outward-looking carmakers and also owns a substantial stake in Daimler – seemed to bet big on the IPO operation, Samuelsson downplayed its strategic signficance: “I have no ambition to be a listed company CEO. I see that as no more exciting than a CEO of a private company. I’m rather neutral.”
According to an anonymous source cited by Reuters, that is also the opinion of parent Geely: “Geely sales are booming and it makes a ton of money. Why IPO?,” the source said. “Geely was never in a rush to take Volvo public.”
Trade war worries
Volvo’s market presence in China has risen significantly since the acquisition by Geely. The company has build manufacturing plants in the country, and has adopted a multi-pronged approach to build market share through sister brands Polestar and Lynk & Co.
Despite this, sales in the country remain low compared to Volvo’s other markets and to the premium German carmakers, which Volvo is seeking to become a peer to.
Complicating the picture is the trade war between the USA and China, which has already forced Volvo to make adjustment to its supply chain, shifting production of the XC60 SUV from China to Sweden in order to avoid tariffs. The company also has a production facility in the US, which would allow it some breathing room should the Trump administration take a tougher stance on cross-Atlantic trade.
Volvo has been pursuing an ambitious strategy to become a “premium mobility provider”, including through the launch of a car subscription product, Care by Volvo, and the creation of a mobility app called “M”.
The company wants direct consumer relationships to reach 5m contracts and account for half of all revenues by the mid-2020s. It is also betting big on autonomous driving, where it partnered with Uber, and electric cars, partly spurred by Chinese policymakers’ call for China to take the lead in future mobility.