GM's Cruise gets $1.15 billion new cash from T. Rowe Price, SoftBank

(Reuters) - General Motors Co’s majority-owned Cruise self-driving division said on Tuesday fund manager T. Rowe Price and a group of existing investors put down $1.15 billion in new equity, valuing the unit at $19 billion.

FILE PHOTO: The GM logo is seen at the General Motors plant in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio/File Photo

Shares of the No.1 U.S. automaker rose as much as 2.1 percent to $38.89 in early afternoon trading following the announcement.

Funding for Cruise comes weeks after T. Rowe Price said it has sold 92 percent of its stake in Tesla Inc.

The latest funding for Cruise includes existing investors General Motors, Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co Ltd, and should give the firm much-needed cash as it aims to launch vehicles by the end of 2019.

The additional capital comes at a crucial time as a host of automakers and technology companies weigh how quickly autonomous vehicles can be marketed and sold in large volumes, and find ways to share rising costs for hardware and software development.

Rival Ford Motor Co is in talks with German automaker Volkswagen AG about joining forces to create autonomous vehicles in a deal that could involve an investment by VW in Argo AI, an autonomous vehicle technology company majority owned by Ford.

Cruise, which has secured capital commitments of $7.25 billion in the past year, was valued at $14.6 billion in the last funding round by Honda in October, which had invested $2.75 billion.

The current valuation is equivalent to about 35 percent of GM’s market capitalization despite no significant revenue and a product not ready for commercial launch.

GM in February outlined an incentive plan for Cruise Chief Executive Officer Dan Ammann, pointing toward a possible initial public offering for the business within ten years.

Up to Monday’s close GM’s stock had risen about 14 percent this year, compared with a 17 percent increase in the S&P 500 index

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Arun Koyyur