Nikola’s stock price plunged Wednesday after CEO Mark Russell refused to offer assurances that the electric-truck maker’s partnership with General Motors had not fallen apart.
Shares in the Arizona-based startup sank 14.3 percent to $29.55 in premarket trading as of 8:05 a.m. after Russell dodged questions about the $2 billion GM deal ahead of a Dec. 3 deadline for the companies to finalize it.
“We can’t comment on continuing discussions,” Russell told CNBC host Jim Cramer on Tuesday, adding only that Nikola was “interested” in GM’s car battery and hydrogen fuel cell systems.
Russell sidestepped again when Cramer asked him outright to offer “some reassurance” that Nikola and GM would get the deal done. Either company can walk away if it’s not closed by next Thursday.
“Can’t do that, Jim,” Russell said. “When we have something to tell you we’ll let you know.”
GM and Nikola have not given any substantive updates on the talks since they announced plans for the tie-up in early September. The deal would give GM an 11 percent stake in Nikola to engineer and manufacture the company’s all-electric Badger pickup truck, while Nikola would get access to GM’s Ultrium batteries and Hydrotec fuel cells.
While Nikola is focused on developing electric semi-trucks, Russell suggested that the Badger may never get off the ground if the company doesn’t close the GM deal or find another partner.
“If you look at our core plan, that’s about heavy trucks and hydrogen,” Russell told CNBC. “The Badger isn’t in the core plan, which is why we said from the beginning, it takes a partner. So if we have a partner it’s in play. If we don’t have a partner, it’s not.”
The GM partnership has been in apparent limbo since short-selling investment firm Hindenburg Research accused Nikola and its founder, Trevor Milton, of fraud in a report published two days after the deal was announced. Milton, who resigned as Nikola’s chairman in September, has also been accused of sexually assaulting two women when they were teenagers, allegations he has denied.
Nikola initially said it expected to close the deal by Sept. 30, but that date passed without final terms being reached.
GM did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning. The Detroit automaker’s stock price was down 1.7 percent in premarket trading at $45.65 as of 8:02 a.m.
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