Within the next few months, the Uber IPO is expected to hit the markets. Keep in mind that the company has confidentially filed its S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the document is usually not made public until a couple weeks before the offering).
While we’ve seen many tech unicorns come public during the past couple years, the Uber deal will be in another league. Note that the capital raise could be over $20 billion and the valuation more than $120 billion (the company has already raised $20 billion in private markets). This would make the Uber IPO one of the largest in history.
Getting to this point has not been without its challenges and drama. In June 2017 Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO of the company in the midst of trade secret theft and aggressive efforts against regulators.
Yet the incoming CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi (who was the CEO of Expedia), has wasted little time in making big changes, especially with the corporate culture. And yes, the IPO will be an important part of the process.
Although, the offering will be more than just about raising money. An IPO will provide liquid stock as currency for dealmaking as well a way to attract talented employees. Let’s face it, the effort for developing self-driving vehicles will require hiring top-notch engineers and data scientists.
“The marketplace that has the best global coverage, with the most earnings for drivers, and the lowest cost and most convenient experience for consumers will win,” said Andre Haddad, who is the CEO of Turo. “It is still early in the race towards transforming the multi-trillion dollar personal mobility space.”
It also looks like arch rival Lyft will pull off its own IPO in early 2019. But Uber may have the edge. The company has about 69% of the US market and a presence across 70 other countries. Uber also has a variety of other business segments, such as UberEats and freight. As for the growth rate, it remains solid (revenues up about 38% to $2.95 billion in the latest quarter).
But then again, Lyft still has made considerable progress. Besides, when it comes to the tech space, it can be tough to maintain a lead. Hey, not long ago, companies like Nokia and BlackBerry dominated their industries. Now they are has-beens.
“The biggest difference between Uber and Lyft is the global effort,” said Jamie Sutherland, who is the CEO of Sonix and also the co-founder of one of the earlier players in the taxi-hailing industry, TaxiNow. “Uber is having to spend much more money entering new markets and working out issues with regulators. Once this has been paved, it makes it easier for a company like Lyft to follow. Sure Uber will get some first-mover advantages, but as we’ve seen in more developed markets like San Francisco, the switching costs for a consumer are non-existent.”
But in the end, the Uber IPO may ultimately depend on something out of the control of management: the fickleness of the equities markets. The plunge in December has been the worst since the Great Depression – and it is far from clear if things have stabilized. There remain many uncertainties like the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies and the trade dispute between the US and China.
Granted, this is not to imply that Uber will fail in getting its deal done. However, it could mean that the valuation will need to be revised downwards and the after-market performance could be muted.