Luminar Technologies becomes public company as lidar race builds

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Luminar Technologies Inc started trading as a public company on Thursday under the ticker symbol LAZR, marking the second Silicon Valley firm to go public while working to deliver a key sensor for self-driving cars.

Luminar makes a lidar sensor, which helps gives vehicles a three-dimensional view of the road. It became public through a merger with Gores Metropoulos Inc, a special purpose acqusition company, or SPAC, a shell company that uses proceeds from an IPO to acquire a private company, typically within two years.

For companies such as Lumiar, which raised $590 million from the merger, SPACs have become an alternative path to public markets instead of a traditional IPO.

Lumiar is one of three lidar makers to choose the SPAC route to public markets. Velodyne Lidar Inc became public in September after such a merger, and Aeva Inc said last month it plans to become public via a merger with InterPrivate Acquisition Corp.

All three are vying to supply carmakers with a sensor that could help them add autonomus driving features. Luminar has a deal with Volvo, owned by Chinese carmaker Geely, to supply lidar units for consumer vehicles with production starting in 2022. The company partnerships with Daimler Truck AG and Intel Corp’s Mobileye.

Luminar CEO Austin Russell told Reuters in an interview that the company has nine “advanced development” deals with automakers, meaning the automakers have begun customizing their software to work with Luminar’s sensors.

“Now it’s all about scale, execution and seeing it though,” Russell said. “We’ve got the business lined up for series production.”

Luminar has given long-term revenue projections of billions of dollars per year, but those depend on it turning its research relationships into production deals. For 2019, Luminar had revenue of $12.6 million and a net loss of $94.7 million. The company estimated it will end 2020 with $15 million in revenue and an operating loss of $72 million. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)