A worker stands outside a factory of Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) in Ningde
INTERNATIONAL - The Chinese founder of the world’s biggest maker of electric-vehicle batteries (EV) and his top lieutenant became billionaires after their company’s shares soared on the first day of trading in Shenzhen.

Yesterday, Contemporary Amperex Technology Company Ltd (CATL) jumped by the maximum 44percent allowed by the exchange, valuing the company at about $12.3 billion (R160.26bn). That cemented the position of Zeng Yuqun, CATL’s founder and top shareholder, on China’s rich list with an estimated net worth of about $3.4bn.

Investors are confident that CATL can fend off rivals Panasonic, which makes power packs with Tesla; Warren Buffett-backed BYD; and LG Chem as the increasing popularity of EVs boost demand for the batteries that move them. CATL, whose customers include Volks­wagen, previously cut the size of its initial public offering (IPO) by more than half, compared with its original ambitions, because of declining margins and a cap imposed by Chinese authorities on price-earnings ratios in IPOs.

The IPO made CATL the biggest company on China’s Nasdaq-style ChiNext list. Zeng, a 50-year-old engineer who started CATL seven years ago, owns a 26percent stake. Vice chairperson Huang Shilin holds 12percent and has an estimated net worth of $1.7bn.

A worker stands outside a factory of Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) in Ningde

Macquarie Bank in Hong Kong rated CATL yesterday with a price target of 90 yuan (R183.10), more than double yesterday’s closing price of 36.20 yuan. CATL also supplies Nissan, Hyundai and BMW. Last year it overtook Panasonic as the world’s largest supplier of EV batteries by sales.

The government’s big subsidies for new-energy vehicles and restrictions on petrol cars in some cities will help battery demand quadruple in the next four years in China.