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Billionaires Investing in China Electric Cars Face Shakeout

  • Alibaba, Tencent, Evergrande spending with bubble bursting
  • China reducing consumer subsidies that helped juice EV sales
An employee charges a BYD electric vehicle in Shenzhen.

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

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Some of China’s wealthiest tycoons steered billions of dollars into electric-car companies in order to fuel the country’s dreams of becoming a leader in the field. Now a reckoning may be looming as car sales slow and the government reduces subsidies for the nascent industry.

That leaves the flagship companies of Jack Ma, Pony Ma, Hui Ka Yan and Robin Li facing an increasingly steep path to profitability on their bets that electric vehicles can be smartphones-on-wheels connecting passengers to other businesses. Their capital, along with dozens of startups raising $18 billion, helped inflate an electric bubble that now looks to be in danger of popping.