NIO seeks to raise $1.8 bln in first U.S. listing by China automaker

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Chinese electric vehicle start-up NIO on Monday filed for a $1.8 billion initial public offering of its American depositary shares, in the first U.S. listing by a Chinese automaker.

The company, backed by Chinese tech heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd, applied for a float of up to $1.8 billion, according to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It plans to go public on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "NIO".

The float comes as the firm, founded by Chinese entrepreneur William Li in 2014, and other Chinese EV makers seek fresh capital to develop new products and finance investments in areas including autonomous driving and battery technologies.

Having begun promoting EVs in 2009, China aims to become a dominant global producer as it bids to curb vehicle emissions, boost energy security and promote high-tech industries.

Start-up electric carmakers such as WM Motor Technology Co and Xpeng Motor have also raised funds totaling billions of dollars from heavyweight investors including tech giants Alibaba Group, Baidu and Tencent.

NIO is also joining several sizable Chinese listings in New York this year, even as Sino-U.S. trade tensions involving tit-for-tat tariffs rattle global stock markets.

At $1.8 billion, NIO's IPO would also surpass the $1.63 billion float by online group discounter Pinduoduo (PDD.O) to become the second-biggest U.S. listing by a Chinese firm this year. Chinese video streaming service provider iQiyi Inc (IQ.O) raised $2.42 billion from a Nasdaq IPO in March.

NIO, formerly known as NextEV, is one of several largely Chinese-funded EV startups betting on the benefits of local production to compete with companies such as Tesla Inc.

In June, it began customer deliveries of its ES8 pure-electric, seven-seat sport-utility vehicle, which the company sees as a rival to Tesla's Model X. It also plans to launch a second, lower-priced electric sport-utility vehicle, the ES6, by the end of this year.

With respect to the ES8, NIO said that as of the end of July, it had delivered 481 ES8s and had unfulfilled reservations for more than 17,000 ES8s, of which 4,989 were made with un-refundable deposits.

The company is also developing autonomous driving technology. In March, it received a license from the Shanghai government allowing it to road test self-driving cars.

NIO mainly plans to use the proceeds to be raised for research and development of products and technology, marketing and developing manufacturing facilities.

The company has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS as underwriters. (Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)