A Short-Seller Attack on QuantumScape Suggests a Forlorn New Reality for Exotic Batteries
As great as they might be, the best may not be good enough to dislodge trusted lithium-ion
QuantumScape, the sizzling darling of battery investors from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Europe and beyond, is the object of a fierce short-selling attack. Its assailant is Scorpion Capital, a little-known guerrilla outfit that yesterday released a 188-page, scorched-earth indictment that, in bold, black-and-red font and yellow highlight pen, accused QuantumScape of fraud and other transgressions. QuantumScape’s share price plunged 12.2% by the close of trading.
The report is a relentless, repetitive, often reckless assault that detracts from numerous valid doubts about QuantumScape: As of now, the startup hasn’t produced an actual battery, but only a cell half the size, in ampere-hours, of an Apple Watch. QuantumScape makes much of its supposedly liberal release of data, but many of its battery peers think it’s actually been pretty miserly, and that the data it has released has led to just more questions.
Scorpion made a particularly incendiary accusation: that QuantumScape’s management, while allegedly hiding all these problems, intends to “pump and dump” the stock — to unload their shares after their “lockup” period, the usual time in which employees must wait before selling any stock. In fact, the 150-day lockup period for QuantumScape employees does appear to lift right around the last week of this month, according to its S4 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. If that is correct, QuantumScape employees and executives could then sell shares as long as the stock price is at least $12 for any subsequent 20 days within a 30-trading-day period (since they went on sale, QuantumScape shares have never sold for less than $35.85, the price yesterday). Senior executives could sell 25% of their shares.
But there is more to this period for QuantumScape and a dozen or so high-flying battery startups, all promising exotic successors to lithium-ion, the workhorse formulation in every electric vehicle, smart phone, laptop and nearly every other portable electronic device: Some or even most of these startups may end up failing — they may…