February 8, 2021 at 14:20 JST
Hyundai logo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
SEOUL--South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. said on Monday it is not now in talks with Apple Inc. on autonomous electric cars, just a month after it confirmed early-stage talks with the tech giant, sending the automaker’s shares skidding.
Wiping $2.1 billion off its market value, Hyundai’s stock slumped 4.2 percent by 0330 GMT. Shares in its affiliate Kia Corp., which had been tipped in local media reports as the likely operational partner for Apple, tumbled 12 percent--a $4.3 billion hit.
The announcement brings the curtain down on weeks of internal divisions within Hyundai Motor Co. Group--parent to both automakers--about the potential tie-up, with some executives raising concerns about becoming a contract manufacturer for the U.S. tech giant.
“We are receiving requests for cooperation in joint development of autonomous electric vehicles from various companies, but they are at early stage and nothing has been decided,” the automakers said on Monday, in compliance with stock market rules requiring regular updates to investors regarding market rumors. “We are not having talks with Apple on developing autonomous vehicles.”
Kia shares had jumped 61 percent after Hyundai appeared to confirm a local media report early in January that Apple and Hyundai were in discussions to develop self-driving electric vehicles by 2027 and develop batteries at U.S. factories operated by either Hyundai or Kia.
“Apple and Hyundai are in discussion, but as it is at early stage, nothing has been decided,” Hyundai said, before releasing subsequent statements that removed all mentions of Apple but said Hyundai was receiving electric car cooperation requests from parties it didn’t identify.
Reuters reported in December that Apple was moving forward with autonomous car technology and aimed to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology as early as 2024.
Apple, known to keep product plans under tight wraps, has never acknowledged talks with the automaker about building vehicles, and wasn’t immediately available for comment outside business hours in the United States.
Analysts said talks might have collapsed over leaks of the partnership plan to media, or over possible insistence by Apple that Hyundai’s role in any tie-up would be that of an equipment manufacturer, rather than a strategic partner.
“With numerous news reports over discussions between the two companies, which should have been held to non-disclosure agreements, it would have been uncomfortable” said Kwon Soon-woo, an analyst at SK Securities.
Kevin Yoo, an analyst at eBEST Investment & Securities, said, “It seems clear that Hyundai Motor Group has not been too happy with dealing with Apple... They made it clear that they do not want to be treated just as Apple’s supplier or manufacturer.”
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