This article originally appeared on September 14, 2018 by TU-Automotive.
Eric Volkman asks: is the ride-sharing king about to become a publicly traded company?
That’s the scuttlebutt in the transportation and tech worlds these days regarding Uber. The company has had its sights on an initial public offering for years and recent moves suggest one is in the offing very soon. (We should note that Uber did not respond to our request for comment on the matter).
This past summer, Uber hired high-powered executive Nelson Chai to occupy its long-vacant chief financial officer position. Overseeing this new hire was CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, himself a relatively recent arrival to the company – he took up his new post in August 2017. Both men have long experience at publicly traded companies; Khosrowshahi was the CEO of top online travel agency Expedia, while Chai was CFO at Merrill Lynch and NYSE Euronext. Those two hires alone give weight to the possibility of a near-term IPO.
“All signs certainly point that way,” says Anil Persad, director of accounting and transaction services at management and technology consultancy MorganFranklin. “You can never really be too sure where a private organization’s head’s at,” Persad added. “At the same time, based on the information we have – i.e. Uber has obtained funding, locked in a formidable CEO and CFO and recently gone on record that they’re positioning for an IPO in the next 12 months – it’s likely to happen barring any cataclysmic internal or external event.”
The recent market for IPOs has been hot and heavy, with companies raising billions of dollars by going public. As Uber is widely known throughout the world, the company will be one of the most high-visibility IPOs of recent years. Does that mean it’ll be a popular stock, though? The company has had its fair share of controversies and setbacks over the years.
Some analysts believe the installment of seasoned executives like Khosrowshahi and Chai is intended to comfort potential investors. “Uber as a company has had challenges ranging from accusations of sexism, management overhauls, and the tragic death of the pedestrian from one of its test autonomous vehicles,” says Christian Renaud, research vice-president for the Internet of Things at 451 Research. “Leading into an IPO, it will seek to de-risk the process by bringing in established advisors and staff, hopefully not have any additional negative publicity, and show revenue consistency,” added Renaud. “This is intended to assuage any concerns from the institutional investors they need to get locked down going into the offering.” Which is critical, because there is a lot of money at stake.
Since Uber is still a private company at the moment, we don’t know how much it’s worth. For that reason it’s also hard to tell what it stands to raise from an IPO; we can say, however, that this take will probably be well in the billions of dollars. This will make it one of the top underwritten IPOs of all time.
An analysis from Morningstar, provided by analyst Ali Moghrabi, estimates that Uber’s IPO could rake in enough to value the company at a total of $100Bn to $110Bn. It should also buy a lot of growth – according to the analysis, the ride-sharing giant’s annual net revenue is set to grow at an average of 27% every year over the next decade, to over $82Bn by the end of that period.
Of course, a key question potential investors will be asking is “what will the company do with all that money?” There are, after all, plenty of areas in which to devote funding. Matt Kennedy of IPO specialist Renaissance Capital points out that the basics should get money first. Uber, he says, is “hemorrhaging cash, so funding operations is the obvious answer. Uber lost $891M in the second quarter alone.”
“Specifically, sales and marketing is of course a large expense, including incentives for drivers and riders,” he added. “They are also pouring money into R&D for self-driving cars. They have multiple business lines, like Uber Eats. Uber also bought bike-share start-up JUMP for about $200M in April .”
Meanwhile, as ever Uber feels the hot breath of competitor Lyft on its neck. Similarly, to its arch-rival, rumors have swirled about an impending Lyft IPO for years now. Some observers have even speculated that there is sort of an arms race between the pair to become publicly traded first.
Opinions vary as to when, or even if, Lyft will land on the stock exchange. “If I had to speculate, I’d wager Lyft has more that needs to happen internally before they’re ready in terms of having their financial reporting readiness, assessing external providers, systems, resources, etc. all good to go,” says MorganFranklin’s Persad.
“I believe Lyft will come first [before Uber], based on how long they’ve been preparing for it,” opined Renaissance Capital’s Kennedy. He added that “the company made several key hires in the past year and is reportedly in talks with investment banks for an IPO that could come as early as March.” Like Uber, Lyft did not respond to our request for comment on its IPO plans.