Nikola Declines as Short Seller Accuses EV-Maker of ‘Deception’

Nikola Corp. shares fell as much as 13% after Hindenburg Research published a reportaccusing the startup electric-vehicle maker of “deception” and lying about its technology.

The report — by a firm that owns a short position in the company’s stock and may stand to gain from a decline in the share price — alleges the maker of electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell heavy-duty vehicles made non-working products appear as fully functional. The report also alleges that Nikola staged misleading videos and told “dozens of lies” about its capabilities, partnerships or products, among other issues.

“Nikola has been vetted by some of the world’s most credible companies and investors,” the truck maker said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “We are on a path to success and will not waver based on a report filled with misleading information attempting to manipulate our stock.”

Trevor Milton, Nikola’s founder and executive chairman, also responded to the report via a tweet, calling it a “hit job” and “lies.” He promised in a subsequenttweet to provide a detailed report to address what he called “one sided false claims”

It makes sense. Tens of millions of shares shorted the last day or two to slam our stock and hit job by hindenburg. I guess everything is fair game in war, even a hit job. I know who funded it now. Give me a few hours to put together responses to their lies. This is all you got?3:29 PM · Sep 10, 2020

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GM Shares Hit Six-Month High on Nikola Electric-Truck Deal

Nikoladeclined 11% to $37.75 at 1:50 p.m. in New York after earlier trading as low as $37.05. The shares have risen about 7% since the companywent public through a reverse merger with a blank-check company on June 4. At one point, Nikola shares had ballooned to almost $80 a share, giving it a market capitalization greater thanFord Motor Co. despite not generating any meaningful revenue.

Read more: Nikola Founder Exaggerated the Capability of Debut Truck

In June, Bloomberg News reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, Milton had exaggerated the capabilities of its debut big rig during an unveiling event in December 2016. Hindenburg refers to that story in a portion of its report.

Theshort report followed news on Tuesday thatGeneral Motors Co. took a $2 billion equity stake in Nikola. GMagreed to manufacture and supply key components for Nikola’s debut electric pickup, called the Badger. The Detroit giant also will provide fuel-cell and battery technology for Nikola’s semi trucks, which are due to be built at a factory under construction in Coolidge, Arizona.

GM didn’t put any cash into Nikola — it will simply license technology to the company and manufacture its product. But allegations about Nikola could cast a pall over the deal and become a black eye for GM, whose shares fell as much as 4.7% on Thursday.

Read More: Nikola and Rivian’s Appetite for Risk Is Prize for GM, Ford

In response to Hindenburg’s claims, GM expressed confidence in Nikola’s ability to create value. “We stand by the statements we made in announcing the relationship,” spokesman Jim Cain said in an email.

CNH Industrial NV’s Iveco unit held a 6.7% stake in Nikola as of June 3 and has an agreement to build one of Nikola’s battery-electric semis at a facility in Germany. CNH shares fell as much as 3.2% during European trading hours on Thursday. The company didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Earlier this year,Hindenburg Research called out companies including SCWorx Corp. and Predictive Technology Group for making claims tied to the coronavirus. Trading in both companies’ shares was later temporarily suspended by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2016, Hindenburg submitted an SEC whistleblower complaint tied to RD Legal, a hedge fund that was later sued by the agency for allegedly making material misstatements to its investors.

— With assistance by Matt Robinson

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