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Peter Thiel-backed Luminar to go public at $2.9 billion valuation

(Reuters) - Automotive sensor startup Luminar Technologies Inc said on Monday it would go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos Inc with an enterprise value of about $2.9 billion (2.2 billion pounds).

The deal includes $400 million of cash from Gores Metropoulos and $170 million financing by investors including tech billionaire Peter Thiel, GoPro Inc founder Nick Woodman, Volvo Cars Tech Fund and VectoIQ, the firm that helped Nikola Corp go public through a SPAC, also known as a blank-check firm. That gives the Luminar deal a total equity value of $3.4 billion.

Luminar makes lidar sensors and software for vehicles. Lidar sensors, which use laser light pulses to render precise images of the environment around the car, are seen as essential by many automakers to allow higher levels of driver assistance right up to making them capable of self-driving.

“The level of certainty that it can provide as part of an IPO process is definitely very valuable,” Luminar Chief Executive Austin Russell said in an interview of the SPAC deal. He cited the Gores Group’s track record, having done three SPAC deals before and its background in technology and auto.

Luminar is expected to report $15 million in revenue by the end of 2020, executives said on a conference call. The company expects to generate its first annual gross profit of $6 million in 2021 and grow it to $531 million in 2025.

The combined company will retain the name Luminar Technologies Inc. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

In May, Volvo Cars struck a deal with the Silicon Valley-based startup to integrate its technology in its new car platform from 2022. Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Geely Holding, bought a stake in Luminar in 2018.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Chizu Nomiyama

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