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Driverless Truck Startup Plus to List in $3.3 Billion Deal

Self-driving truck startup Plus agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V, becoming the latest developer of autonomous vehicles to seek a public listing via a blank-check firm.

The combined company is set to have a market value of about $3.3 billion, Plus said in a statement Monday, confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report. It is raising $150 million from investors including BlackRock Inc. and D.E. Shaw & Co. through a so-called private investment in public equity, or PIPE deal.

Plus’s existing shareholders will roll over all their holdings and are expected to own a combined 80% stake when the deal closes. The combined company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker PLAV. Shares of the Hennessy SPAC slipped as much as 0.9% shortly after the open of regular trading.

Cupertino, California-based Plus is among a handful of startups trying to upend the long-haul trucking business with driverless technology. It has been working with Chinese delivery company SF Holding Co., which uses Plus-enabled trucks that can cover 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) a day, according to Plus. State-owned China FAW Group Co. plans to start mass production of jointly developed autonomous trucks this quarter, Plus has said.The Hennessy SPAC raised $345 million in a January initial public offering. Chief Executive Officer Daniel J. Hennessy previously led blank-check firms that completed deals with companies including electric-vehicle developer Canoo Inc.; Blue Bird Corp., which makes school buses; and Texas-based transportation and logistics firm Daseke Inc.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. acted as exclusive financial adviser to Plus. Barclays Plc was financial adviser and capital markets adviser to the Hennessy SPAC, while Goldman Sachs and Barclays acted as joint placement agents.

Founded by a group of Stanford University classmates in 2016, Plus is backed by investors including Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., GSR Ventures Management and a Chinese long-haul company known as Full Truck Alliance. It also has a partnership with European truckmaker Iveco SpA and is working with Cummins Inc. on using autonomous technology in trucks powered by natural gas.

Plus raised $200 million in a funding round in February that attracted new investors such as Guotai Junan International Holdings and Citic Private Equity Funds Management Co. It raised an additional $220 million from investors co-led by FountainVest Partners and ClearVue Partners in March.

It began delivering its automated driving system PlusDrive to some customers in the U.S. and China this year. The company recently hired Dennis Mooney from Navistar International Corp. and Chuck Joseph from Amazon.com Inc. to help scale up production and promote the adoption of Plus technology.

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