How CATL in China Became the Leading Manufacturer of Electric Car Batteries

CATL’s 2018 initial public offering made Mr. Zeng and two CATL vice presidents wealthy, who together hold a 40 percent stake. Other early-stage investors, some with deep political ties, also fared well.

The company’s success was never assured, but China had let the world know that it planned to dominate the electric vehicle industry. He said in a sweeping announcement in 2016 that a “third industrial revolution” focused on digitization and “new energies” would see China take the lead in the auto industry.

CATL invited a few outside investors to take stakes before the IPO. Among them, Pei Zhenhua, a businessman who created a lithium processing company with CATL, and Yu Yong, the largest individual shareholder of China Molybdenum, CATL partner in Congo. Mr. Yu’s holding company controls 1.69% of CATL, according to the records.

An investment fund, Guokai Boyu, invested more than $ 100 million and held a 1.2% stake. Guokai Boyu is controlled by a private equity firm co-founded by Alvin Jiang, grandson of Jiang Zemin, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party. The fund did not respond to requests for comment.

One of the fund’s partners in this investment was a subsidiary of a financial company called National Trust. In the past, National Trust has teamed up with the family of former prime minister Wen Jiabao in other investments. It was partly owned by a close associate of the Wen family and was supervised by another. It is not clear whether the Wen family had a financial stake in CATL. The National Trust phone rang unanswered and the company did not respond to questions sent by fax.

An even older investor in CATL was a Chinese private equity firm linked to Hunter Biden, the son of the US president.

The company, known as BHR, bought a 0.4% stake in 2016, paying around $ 15 million. In 2019, when BHR asked to sell the stake, it was valued at approximately $ 76 million.

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