FRANKFURT (Reuters) - ChargePoint, operator of one of the world’s largest charging station networks for electric cars, targets an initial public offering within the next five years, as it expands further into Europe, its chief executive told Reuters.
Demand for electric cars depends on a network of charging points, which utilities, engineering groups, automakers and start-ups are vying to provide and control before the sector takes off.
French utility Engie (ENGIE.PA) has bought Dutch firm EV-Box, Germany’s Innogy (IGY.DE) is moving into the United States, and ChargePoint, with BMW (BMWG.DE), Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and Siemens (SIEGn.DE) among its owners, has entered Europe.
Founded in 2007, Silicon Valley-based ChargePoint operates about 40,000 charging spots in the United States and Mexico. It sells the stations to service providers and hooks them up to its network that can be accessed via a smartphone app.
It has so far raised nearly $300 million in funds, with Daimler and Siemens becoming investors this year. BMW first supplied funds in 2012, according to Crunchbase data.
“We will probably look to be public within the next five years,” Pasquale Romano said in an interview, adding the group was preparing to implement a reporting structure to comply with stock market requirements.
“We’ll be ready. But the conditions have to be right.”
ChargePoint does not disclose its ownership structure, but Romano said that Daimler, BMW and Siemens together hold a significant stake. Its owners also include venture capital firms Linse Capital, Rho Capital Partners and Braemar Energy Ventures.
Much of ChargePoint’s hopes rest on its expansion in Europe, where the Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) diesel scandal has raised awareness for the need to switch to electric vehicles.
“Europe is starting with a stronger political mandate,” Romano said, adding ChargePoint was hiring “furiously” in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Britain, where it struck a deal to sell fast chargers in May, its first in Europe.
ChargePoint, whose board of directors include former General Motors (GM.N) Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, is aiming to spend the $125 million it raised in a recent funding round to expand on the continent.
Europe, however, is also a highly fragmented market, with differing e-mobility legislation and support schemes across various countries, requiring a specific strategy and business model for almost every market.
In addition, ChargePoint will face stiff competition on the continent, most notably from Engie’s EV-Box, itself boasting more than 48,000 in installed charging points, as well as RWE’s (RWEG.DE) Innogy, with 5,800 charging points.
According to its website, Tesla (TSLA.O) has 6,372 superchargers worldwide, which are slower than ChargePoint’s most modern chargers.
“The market will consolidate around three to four players and we hope to be one of them. That’s how we look at it,” Romano said, adding it was important to expand aggressively, possibly at the expense of immediate profitability.
One potential business target could be a car consortium - which includes Daimler and BMW - aiming to install 400 super-fast charging stations across Europe.
“Of course, we can help that consortium with our technology,” Romano said.
Editing by Susan Thomas