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Chinese electric car company Nio to enter Middle East this year amid global expansion by peers

BEIJING — Chinese electric car company Nio plans to expand to the Middle East this year, CEO William Li said on an earnings call Thursday, at a time when rivals have been increasing their global footprint.

The nearly 10-year-old company will also start shipping its lowest-cost brand, Firefly, in the first half of next year, Li said.

Nio, which recently received funding from Middle East-based investors, saw record-high deliveries of 20,544 vehicles in May.

The U.S.-listed Chinese company, which has been operating at a loss, plans to start offering its products and services in the United Arab Emirates by the end of this year, Li said, according to a FactSet transcript.

Nio primarily sells in China and in parts of Europe, with a focus on the higher-end market. Li said the brand can break even if monthly sales reach around 30,000 vehicles.

Rival BYD has also made the United Arab Emirates its entry point to the Middle East. The battery and electric car giant said in November it opened a showroom in Dubai Festival City as part of a collaboration with Al-Futtaim Electric Mobility Company.

As competition in the Chinese electric car market intensifies, Nio launched a lower-priced brand called Onvo in May. The Onvo L60 SUV, which is set to begin deliveries in September, starts at 219,900 yuan ($30,349) versus Tesla Model Y's 249,900 yuan.

Li said Thursday the L60's price was only for pre-sales, not the final price.

"We continue to believe that the Onvo L60 will be the key factor influencing NIO's potential outlook in 2H24," Nomura analysts said in a note Friday. They rate the stock neutral.

An even lower-priced brand, Firefly, is also in the works, Nio's Li said.

He told investors Thursday that Firefly will deliver its first car in the