Key Investment from Home Soil
News from Europe, Germany: The Bavarian air taxi venture, Lilium, has obtained yet another substantial investment, this time totalling $150 million. According to the company, half of the substantial investment emanates from previous investor Tencent, a renowned Chinese multinational conglomerate. The other half, quite intriguingly, is led by VC Earlybird based out of Berlin, marking the first significant German investment in the startup.
Alongside Tencent and Earlybird, other contributors in this round of financing include German capital provider UVC Partners, BIT Capital from Hong Kong, and Frank Thelen who had invested in Lilium previously.
Bridging the Financial Gap
The recent investment largely seals the financial shortfall until the firm’s next big milestone – the maiden manned flight slated for the fall of 2024. Earlier in May, Tencent had pledged a funding amount of $100 million with an additional promise of another $75 million, contingent upon a concurrent assemblage of $75 million by European investors.
Closing in on Inaugural Flight
The unexpected injection of funding from Earlybird comes as a surprise, since the esteemed VC generally doesn’t invest in publicly-listed companies. Earlybird partner, Hendrik Brandis, justified the late investment to Handelsblatt by saying, “We were not among the early investors because we had too much respect for the technical and financial challenges. But now the main obstacles have been overcome, and the maiden flight is not far off.”
He also added that, given the current relatively low valuation of $660 million, there was “an attractive risk-reward ratio.”
Two years ago, during its IPO on Nasdaq through a SPAC, Lilium was valued at around $3 billion. Since then, the stock price has dropped by up to 90%, partly due to doubts about the complex technology of the jet. Unlike other providers, such as Volocopter, Lilium relies on a propulsion system with 30 tiltable rotors, aiming to combine vertical takeoff and landing with the aerodynamic advantages of an airplane, thereby enabling longer flight distances.
Currently, Lilium is working on securing certification for its vertical takeoff machine by the regulators, a decisive prerequisite for which is the maiden manned flight. With the new capital, the funding up to this milestone appears to be safe. After that, according to CEO Klaus Roewe, Lilium primarily plans to finance itself through down payments from customers. The final approval is aimed for the end of 2025.
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