JPM’s Brian Gu joins Chinese car startup Xpeng

US bank's Asia-Pacific chairman of investment banking Brian Gu leaves to join high-flying Chinese electric car startup Xpeng Motors. $1b of additional fund raising seen this year.

Brian Gu, JP Morgan’s chairman of Asia-Pacific investment banking, has joined Chinese electric car startup Xpeng Motors as vice chairman and president, both companies said, becoming the latest high-profile departure from the investment banking community.

Xpeng is among the first batch of Chinese companies to commercialise electric vehicles, having launched its fully-electric G3 special-purpose vehicle in January.

Tencent-backed Nio launched its first EV in December, while Baidu-backed WM Motor Plans to receive orders for its debut in April.

“I’ve seen first-hand the development of electric vehicles market in China and autonomous driving technology in the past few years,” Brian Gu, vice-chairman and president of Xiaopeng, told FinanceAsia in a phone interview, explaining his decision to join the Alibaba-backed startup.

Gu said he would be leading the company’s global business strategy, financing and investment, as well as forming strategic partnerships to enhance its retail channels. He also said the company needs to raise more capital this year, as it needs to build its infrastructure such as charging stations.

“We will be raising more capital this year, and expect to raise over $1 billion dollars,” said Gu. “There is a need for financing to sustain the growth of the company, primarily for its new product launch and R&D.”

Gu’s China focus and extensive experience in advising technology companies will be key to Xpeng’s forthcoming fundraising rounds as the electric vehicle (EV) startup looks to revolutionise electric transport in China.

Brian Gu"I am very excited to welcome Gu on board as a part of Xpeng Motors' leadership team,” chairman Xiaopeng He said in a press release.

“Gu's deep experience in technology, finance and global strategy make him a perfect fit to help the company take the next step in its growth."

Guangzhou-headquatered Xpeng Motors, which goes along the name of Xiaopeng in China, is named after chairman Xiaopeng He who started the company in 2014.

The company is dubbed China’s Tesla because the chairman has admitted that he was inspired by the US electric car company to develop a Chinese maker of internet-connected cars.

In January, Xpeng raised Rmb2.2 billion ($346 million) in its series B round of funding with commitment from Alibaba, Foxconn Technology, IDG Capital, Yunfeng Capital and CICC.

TIME FOR A CHANGE

The veteran investment banker is putting an end to his investment banking career after spending over 20 years in the industry, first as a healthcare specialist with Lehman Brothers in New York between 1998 and 2004.

Brian Gu joined JP Morgan in 2004 as a vice president, and has since held various roles including co-head of Greater China investment banking, co-head of Asia-Pacific M&A and co-head of Asia-Pacific investment banking.

The experienced rainmaker has orchestrated some of Asia’s landmark fundraising deals including Alibaba’s $25 billion New York IPO in 2014 and Ctrip’s $800 million convertible notes offering in 2013, as well as corporate mergers including the privatisation of Focus MediaGiant Interactive and Shanda Interactive

A source familiar with the situation said Gu will remain as an external advisor to JP Morgan, serving as the co-chairman of a newly-formed Asia-Pacific Council alongside Rod Eddington, former chairman of Infrastructure Australia.

“Gu has been a terrific banker and partner to many of us and has helped JP Morgan strengthen our investment banking platform and become a leading advisor to new economy companies,” Nicolas Aguzin, JP Morgan’s Asia-Pacific CEO, said in an internal memo seen by FinanceAsia.

“[Gu] will work with me to bring together experienced, external business executives and thought leaders to provide our regional senior management with strategic and market insights as well as enhance our client dialogue and relationships across Asia Pacific,” Aguzin said in reference to Gu’s new advisory role.

 

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