Self-driving truck startup TuSimple files to go public

Kirsten Korosec
·3-min read

TuSimple, the self-driving truck company that is backed by a diverse consortium of strategic investors, including Volkswagen AG’s heavy-truck business The Traton Group, Navistar, Goodyear, and freight company U.S. Xpress, filed Tuesday for an initial public offering.

TuSimple is taking the traditional path to going public, a departure from the recent trend — particularly among electric and autonomous vehicle startups — to merge with a special purpose acquisition companies.

The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined, according to the regulatory filing. TuSimple intends to list its common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol "TSP." Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan are the lead underwriters for the proposed offering.

According to the company's S-1, which was filed Tuesday, TuSimple has primarily financed its operations through the sale of redeemable convertible preferred stock and loans from stockholders. The company's principal sources of liquidity were $310.8 million of cash and cash equivalents, exclusive of restricted cash of $1.5 million. Cash and cash equivalents consist primarily of cash on deposit with banks as well as certificates of deposit.

The S-1 shows that TuSimple had a loss from operations of $177.9 million in 2020, more than double loss of $84.8 million incurred in the previous year. The company said it had net losses from operations of $45 million in 2018. Its accumulated deficit was $405.2 million as of December 31, 2020.

Net loss attributable to common stockholders sat at $198.8 million in 2020, up from a loss of $145 million a year earlier.

The company's revenue did rise to $1.8 million in 2020, up from $710,000 the previous year.

TuSimple, which was founded in 2015, was one of the first autonomous trucking startups to emerge in what has become a small, yet bustling industry that now includes Aurora, Embark, Kodiak and Waymo. While TuSimple’s founding team and its earliest backers Sina and Composite Capital are from China, a chunk of its operations are in the United States, including its global headquarters in San Diego. TuSimple also operates an engineering center and truck depot in Tucson and more recently set up a facility in Texas to support its autonomous trips —always with a human safety operator behind the wheel. TuSimple also has operations in Beijing and Shanghai.

Despite its U.S. operations and U.S. partners, its shares are largely held by Chinese investors, the S-1 prospectus shows. The company's principal stockholders of Class A shares are Sun Dream Inc with 20%, Composite Capital Master Fund with 7.28% and Navistar with 6%. Navistar is now owned by Volkswagen Group's The Traton Group. TuSimple's co-founders Mo Chen and Xiaodi Hou hold 9.1% and 8.5%, respectively in Class A shares. The two each hold 50% of the Class B shares.

The Sun Dream is ultimately controlled by Charles Chao, who is a board member, but perhaps best known as the chairman of Sina, which owns Weibo. Sun Dream has triggered a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, TuSimple revealed in its S-1. CFIUS will have 45 days to conduct a review of the Investment.