Automotive sensor maker Luminar to go public via special-purpose company with $2.9 billion valuation

(Reuters) - Automotive sensor startup Luminar Technologies Inc said on Monday it would go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos Inc GMHI.OGMHIU.O with an enterprise value of about $2.9 billion.

The deal includes $400 million of cash from Gores Metropoulos and $170 million financing by investors including tech billionaire Peter Thiel, GoPro Inc GPRO.O founder Nick Woodman, Volvo Cars Tech Fund and VectoIQ, the firm that helped Nikola Corp NKLA.O go public through a SPAC, also known as a blank-check firm. That gives the Luminar deal a total equity value of $3.4 billion.

Luminar makes lidar sensors and software for vehicles. Lidar sensors, which use laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the car, are seen as essential by many automakers to allow higher levels of driver assistance right up to making them capable of self-driving.

“The level of certainty that it can provide as part of an IPO process is definitely very valuable,” Luminar Chief Executive Austin Russell said in an interview of the SPAC deal. He cited the Gores Group’s track record, having done three SPAC deals before and its background in technology and auto.

The combined company will retain the name Luminar Technologies Inc and list on the Nasdaq under the symbol “LAZR.”

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

“Luminar represents a rare opportunity to invest in the leading player in autonomous driving technology for cars and trucks,” Alec Gores, CEO of Gores Metropoulos, said in a statement. He will join the Luminar board.

Deutsche Bank Securities is the financial adviser to Gores, while GCA Advisors LLC and Jefferies Group LLC are advising Luminar.

Shares of the blank check company jumped about 26% in premarket trade.

In May, Volvo Cars struck a deal with the Silicon Valley-based startup to integrate its technology in its new car platform from 2022. Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Geely Holding [GEELY.UL], bought a stake in Luminar in 2018.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Chizu Nomiyama