Harley to take EV unit public via SPAC deal as valuations soar

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Dec 13 (Reuters) - Harley-Davidson Inc's (HOG.N) electric-motorcycle division will go public through a merger with a blank-check firm in a deal valued at $1.77 billion, the company said on Monday, as the 118-year old brand bets on younger customers to boost volumes.

The company launched LiveWire earlier this year, hoping to claw back lost market share as its core baby boomer customer base grows older and interest in motorcycling as a recreational activity fades.

A broader awareness about climate change is also paving the way for automakers to lean towards greener vehicles. Valuations have gained as money managers are also increasingly factoring in ESG policies in their investments.

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Harley is the latest to cash in on an uptick in valuations of electric-vehicle makers. Last month, Amazon-backed EV maker Rivian (RIVN.O) shot past $100 billion in valuation in its market debut, surpassing Ford and General Motors. read more

The Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle, developed in collaboration with Panasonic Automotive, is displayed during a Panasonic news conference at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

"If anything this underlines what we've been saying for a long time. Detroit, wake up! The train has left the station! EVs are inevitable," Roth Capital analyst Craig Irwin said.

"Many traditional OEMs (Original equipment manufacturers) with emerging EV businesses can obviously do similar spinoff transactions," Irwin added.

Harley's shares rose 11.3% in premarket trading, while those of AEA-Bridges were up 3.4%.

Jochen Zeitz, Harley's chief executive, will be the chairman of LiveWire for up to two years following the completion of the deal. In an investor presentation, LiveWire projected units sales volume of 100,961 electric bikes by 2026.

Harley-Davidson will retain a 74% stake in the company, which is expected to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "LVW". ABIC's shareholders will own about 17%.

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Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Mehnaz Yasmin; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, Sweta Singh and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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