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LeEco dodges a bullet, lives to fight another day
LeEco, maker of everything from phones, cars, streaming media, bicycles, motion pictures, accessories and TVs, has been suffering a bit of a cash crunch recently. Its billionaire co-founder and chairman, Jia Yueting, famously dropped his salary to one Yuan last year in an effort to help the company meet the financial demands of its rapid expansion. With funds dwindling rapidly and investors panicking, LeEco has just received a major reprieve: a fresh cash injection of over $2 billion.
The 15 billion Yuan ($2.2 billion) investment in various LeEco entities comes from a property developer called Sunac China Holdings. The lifeline comes at an important crossroads for the company. LeEco previously announced a $600 investment – sourced from a dozen of Yueting’s graduate school classmates – to keep its electric vehicle unit afloat, but the future of the mobile division and other business units remained uncertain.
This new two billion-dollar investment will certainly keep the wolves from the door for a while longer, but, as before, LeEco’s underlying problem is rapidly expanding into too many diverse fields rather than focusing on one or two core businesses. Nevertheless, LeEco is still committed to expanding into the U.S. market even as it has temporarily put its Asia Pacific expansion on hold.
Yueting previously admitted that fundraising is not LeEco’s strong suit, confessing that “the scale of our external fundraising had trouble satisfying the demands of our rapid expansion”. Later, when the $600 million investment arrived, the company claimed that LeEco’s cash problem could be “completely solved in the near future” via various Hong Kong financing channels.
It is unclear if the Sunac deal is the one previously rumored with a value of $1.4 billion, which at the time was connected to an insurance company. The details of the current deal are as follows: Sunac China Holdings, through its real estate subsidiary Sunac Real Estate, will acquire a 8.61 percent stake in LeEco subsidiaries Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp Beijing for 6.04 billion Yuan.
Sunac will also acquire a 33.5 percent stake in Leshi’s smart TV company Leshi Zhixin to the tune of 7.95 billion Yuan. Finally, LeEco’s film production company Leshi Pictures will receive an additional 1.05 billion Yuan for a 15 percent stake. Leshi Internet Information shares will resume trading on January 16 following a trading halt in early December.
With the unveiling of the Faraday Future FF91 electric vehicle along with two new smart bicycles at CES 2017, LeEco will have a bright and wide-ranging future ahead of it. But before any of these investments can really come to fruition the company desperately needs to work more on its fundraising abilities. The Sunac deal is a good start but it’s still a long way from solving the LeEco’s financing problems generally.
What do you think of LeEco products? Do you think the company will survive?