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May 7, 2019

GM's Cruise valuation swells to US$19 billion as T. Rowe buys in

GM cruise unit receives more than a billion dollars from high-profile investors

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General Motors Co.’s (GM.N) self-driving unit drew US$1.15 billion in fresh investment, with T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. joining existing backers including Honda Motor Co. and SoftBank Vision Fund.

In what is GM Cruise LLC’s third major investment in the last year, the unit is now valued at US$19 billion, according to a statement. Cruise raised US$2.25 billion from the SoftBank Vision Fund and US$2.75 billion from Honda last year.

Cruise continues to tap outside investors as it races the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo to develop self-driving vehicles. GM wants to start an autonomous ride-hailing service at the end of this year and needs cash to bring along the technology and build out an infrastructure for that kind of business. The automaker is spending about US$1 billion a year on Cruise.

GM owned about 85 per cent of Cruise before the latest investment and still has a large majority of the shares. At some point, the carmaker may elect to spin off Cruise through an initial public offering or sale. The unit’s chief executive officer, former GM President Dan Ammann, is incentivized to arrange such a deal as part of his compensation package.

“Developing and deploying self-driving vehicles at massive scale is the engineering challenge of our generation,” Ammann said in a statement. “Having deep resources to draw on as we pursue our mission is a critical competitive advantage.”

Cruise lost US$728 million last year, and GM expects the tab to be about US$1 billion this year, the company said in January.

GM shares climbed as much as 2.1 per cent to US$38.89 at the open of regular trading Tuesday, as the benchmark S&P 500 Index declined.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc. is a Baltimore-based investment firm known for its actively managed mutual funds. It had US$1.08 trillion in assets under management as of March 31, 2019. A spokesman declined to comment beyond GM’s statement.