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Nikola shares jump as it starts manufacturing electric trucks

U.S. Nikola's logo is pictured at an event held to present CNH's new full-electric and Hydrogen fuel-cell battery trucks in partnership with U.S. Nikola event in Turin

(Reuters) -Nikola Corp shares rose about 15% on Thursday, as Wall Street cheered the company starting production of its electric truck on schedule.

The electric-vehicle maker said at its analyst day on Wednesday it had started manufacturing Tre battery electric vehicle (BEV) at its Coolidge, Arizona facility on March 21 and would deliver 300 to 500 semi-trucks this year.

The Phoenix, Arizona-based company expects to start production of the Tre BEV truck at its factory in Germany in June 2023.

Several electric vehicle makers including legacy automakers such as Ford Motor Co and General Motors that have entered the segment aim to deliver their first EVs this year as demand heats up, but higher raw material prices and supply chain woes have clouded their timelines.

The Nikola story has increased credibility now as trucks start to roll off the line, said Jeffrey Kauffman, analyst at Vertical Research Partners, adding the company could surprise with new customer orders.

Nikola expects positive gross margins for its Tre BEV by 2023, which could grow to about 20% after 2025, while in 2022 it expects a negative gross margin of 60% to 75%.

"We got the sense that NKLA has learned a few lessons from other EV companies looking to ramp-up production ... Nikola is in touch with suppliers on a daily basis and is continuously discussing and locking-in pricing as volumes rise," DA Davidson analyst Michael Shlisky said.

Traders have a short position on about 27.5% of Nikola's free float, according to estimates from data analytics firm Ortex.

Nikola shares were trading at $10.52. As of Wednesday, the stock had lost at least 35% of its value since the company's founder was charged with defrauding investors in July last year.

(Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Medha Singh; editing by Vinay Dwivedi)