General Motors Co and Nikola Corp on Monday announced a reworked agreement on a fuel-cell partnership that eliminates an equity stake in the startup for the Detroit automaker as well as plans for building Nikola’s electric pickup truck, sending Nikola shares tumbling almost 25%.
In September, the companies announced a deal under which GM would supply batteries, a chassis architecture, fuel cell systems and a factory. It will supply to build Nikola’s proposed Badger electric pickup in return for an 11% stake and $700 million.
But the deal came into question after a short seller criticised Nikola as a fraud, something Nikola has denied.
The new agreement, a non-binding memorandum of understanding that doesn’t expire until the end of 2021, is subject to negotiation, Nikola and GM said in separate statements.
Under the new deal, GM will supply its fuel-cell system for Nikola’s Class 7 and Class 8 commercial semi-trucks, Nikola said. The companies are also discussing Nikola’s potential use of GM’s Ultium electric battery system in commercial trailers.
Nikola officials said the new deal focuses on the fuel-cell side of the business. They also said they remain confident of signing a deal. It will get signed by year end with an energy partner to build hydrogen-refueling stations. Nikola’s shares sank almost 25% in afternoon trading, while GM’s fell 1.7%.
J.P. Morgan analyst Paul Coster said not to take a stake in Nikola as originally planned. It would weigh on Nikola’s shares. But in longer term, the new agreement was positive for the startup. It could now focus on its commercial truck business.
In addition, the lock-up period preventing the sale of 161 million shares expires on Tuesday. That could put even more pressure on Nikola’s value. If they are sold because stock’s current float is only 117 million shares.