France: start-up Verkor announces record fundraising for its mega-battery factory

The French start-up Verkor announced Thursday that it has raised "more than 2 billion euros" to finance the installation, in Dunkirk, of a "gigafactory" of batteries, one of four planned in France as Europe tries to create an industrial sector of electric cars in the face of Asian competition.

Erected as one of the symbols of reindustrialization, the plant of the start-up Verkor should help the French automotive industry to reach the goal of two million electric cars produced in France by 2030. (Illustrative image) Getty Images/Gregor Schuster

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Verkor raised the record amount of "at least €850 million" from private investors. This is the largest fundraising of a French start-up to date. In addition, there is a public subsidy of "approximately €650 million" – subject to validation by the European Commission – and a €600 million loan from the European Investment Bank.

Quoted in a press release from the company, President Emmanuel Macron "congratulates" Verkor for this "historic" round table that "sends a strong signal on our ambition for reindustrialization".

The operation, "a very important step", values the start-up at "more than a billion euros", told AFP Benoit Lemaignan, co-founder and president of the company. Founded in 2020, Verkor inaugurated its high-power battery pilot plant in Grenoble at the end of June and plans to open its Dunkirk plant by 2025, with 1,200 direct jobs and an initial production of 16 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year.

Two million electric cars produced by 2030

With this operation, Verkor is closely followed by the government. Erected as one of the symbols of reindustrialization, the plant should help the French automotive industry reach the goal of two million electric cars produced in France in 2030, after long years of relocations. Currently, the manufacture of batteries and the refining of the materials that compose them are dominated by Asian groups.

The Australian asset manager Macquarie Asset Management is the "main investor", "with the support" of the French fund Meridiam, which invested 200 million euros. The Fonds stratégique de participations (FSP), an alliance of seven major French insurance companies, also took a stake. Several existing shareholders contributed again, including carmaker Renault, which had already pledged to buy three-quarters of Verkor's production.

The plant is one of four electric battery projects in France. Taiwanese manufacturer ProLogium has been awarded a €1.5 billion grant to set up its first plant in Dunkirk, with an opening scheduled for 2026. One hundred kilometers to the south, in Douvrin - in the Nord department - Stellantis, TotalEnergies and Mercedes have set up the first French battery factory, with their joint venture Automotive Cells Company (ACC). And Renault is due to open its own plant with the Chinese group AESC-Envision in 2024, also in the North, in Douai.


with AFP)

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