Uber planning stock market flotation ‘in April’

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Ride-hailing taxi app firm Uber is to launch its initial public offering in April, the Reuters news agency reports.

Uber will register securities with US regulator the SEC in April, as well as launching an investor roadshow, Reuters said.

Rival Lyft went through the same process on 1 March, and will complete its offering by the end of this month.

Both Uber and Lyft confidentially told the regulator they wanted to float on the stock market in 2018.

Uber, which started in 2009, was most recently valued at $76bn in the private market. It is seeking a valuation as high as $120bn.

Controversy

Uber has been controversial for disrupting the taxi industry in more than 60 countries.

It continues to face opposition from both private hire drivers and regulators in several jurisdictions.

The ride-hailing taxi app firm has also faced legal action in the UK and US over its classification of drivers as self-employed contractors, rather than as workers.

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AFP

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Taxi drivers in multiple countries have protested against Uber, including in the UK, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, Bulgaria, Australia and Guatemala (pictured)

A series of scandals dogged Uber in 2017, including sexual harassment claims made by female employees, data breaches, the use of illicit software to thwart government regulators, and the forced resignation of its chief executive Travis Kalanick.

The controversy is believed to have helped boost Lyft’s profile as an alternative service.

Lyft started in 2012, and was initially designed as a “safe” ride-sharing service in cities that used Facebook profile information to authenticate drivers and users.

Ranked as the number two ride-hailing company in the US, it was recently valued at $15bn, and is seeking a valuation of between $20bn and $25bn.

Unlike Uber, Lyft – which also offers bike and electric scooter-sharing – is only available in the US and Canada.

Drivers in multiple US cities including Connecticut, Chicago, New York and Santa Monica have also protested against Lyft over pay and benefits.

Warnings

Although Lyft has some high profile investors, including Google owner Alphabet and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, some analysts have said the firm may not be a good bet.

Both Uber and Lyft are still losing money, despite their rate of growth, and both are investing heavily into autonomous cars.

In 2018, Uber saw a 24% increase in revenues and a 37% rise in gross bookings, but its adjusted loss – following a tax benefit – still hit $1.8bn.

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Lyft is smaller than Uber, but has benefitted from its rival’s troubles

As for Lyft, as a private firm it did not disclose many financial details, but now that its SEC filing has been made public, some analysts are concerned.

Bloomberg columnist Shira Ovide says investors should note that while Lyft’s revenues per ride have increased over time, so have the costs per ride.

“None of this may matter to potential IPO investors. [Lyft] has devoted itself to growing fast, and it has.

“That’s what new stock buyers seem to want. The company’s losses are getting less ugly. And it’s good that investors are willing to roll the dice on fresh approaches to transportation and other fields that could use new ways of thinking,” she wrote.

“Still, Lyft and Uber are aiming for large valuations, so investors should look every which way at revenue and cost economics, and ask the companies when these numbers will materially improve.”

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