(Bloomberg) — Shares of Chinese electric-vehicle maker Li Auto Inc. have more than doubled from last year’s low and are tipped for further gains even as a slowing economy and price war hamper its rivals.
The Beijing-based automaker unexpectedly reported profits for the past two quarters by churning out a regular lineup of new models and keeping costs contained. Analysts remain bullish: Citigroup Inc. predicts the firm’s shares will climb another 88% by year-end, while Morgan Stanley raised its price target by more than 40% this month.
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Li Auto has outpaced its peers by introducing a new model in each quarter since the middle of last year, a much faster pace than competitors such as XPeng Inc. and Nio Inc. The revamped product lineup helped revenue surge by 96% last quarter, while deliveries jumped to a record 52,584.
“The order intake has been much stronger than the market had expected, thanks partly to the intensive model launches,” said Joanna Chen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong. “Li Auto’s sales volume will continue to beat XPeng and Nio this year, as the latter are still in a phase of product switch.”
Li Auto’s Hong Kong-listed shares closed at HK$112 on Tuesday, having climbed from last year’s low of HK$53.55 set on Oct. 31. Their 109% rally over the period compares with a 23% gain in Xpeng, and a 19% loss for Nio.
A price war is heating up in China’s EV industry as the costs of batteries fall from last year’s highs. Tesla Inc. and BYD Co. have both announced plans to cut vehicle prices, effectively squeezing industry margins, though analysts see Li Auto ideally positioned to weather the intensifying competition.
The price wars are mainly in the mass-market segment around a selling price of 100,000 yuan ($14,140) to 150,000 yuan, “but Li Auto is selling cars far above that range,” said Vincent Sun, an analyst at Morningstar Asia Ltd. in Singapore. “Secondly, if you look across the board, there are actually not too many models to choose in mid-to-large-sized premium SUVs.”
Unlike its rivals, Li Auto has focused on designing and manufacturing extended-range electric cars, vehicles that use gasoline engines to add to the distance possible for their electric motors. The company is also expected to introduce its first purely electric-powered vehicle later this year to complement its existing range of hybrid cars.
Citigroup sees Li Auto’s shares climbing to HK$208.80 by Christmas due to its sustained sales momentum and improving economies of scale. The firm’s “business model and sales logic are totally different from other new energy vehicle players,” analysts at the bank wrote in a research note published this month.
Analysts have raised their 12-month target price for the automaker by about 10% over the past month alone, the largest increase among the 30 members of the Hang Seng Tech Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Two profitable quarters in a row, quality execution in model launches, and cost control, underpin a more favorable volume and margin outlook,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Tim Hsiao in Hong Kong wrote in a note this month, raising their price target by 41%. “The company deserves more credit for its well-rounded strategy and quality execution.”
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—With assistance from Kevin Dharmawan, Paul Jarvis and Ryan Vlastelica.