• Investors expect 2019 to turn into a hectic year for initial public offerings as technology unicorns and decacorns like Uber, Slack, and Pinterest are expected to hit the public market.
  • When Lyft priced its IPO last week at $72 a share, it was valued at around $24 billion. Its chief rival, Uber, is expected to go public at a $120 billion valuation later this year.
  • Some analysts are having a hard time assessing Lyft’s true value since it’s the first of its kind on a public exchange, facing various risks as it lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2018.

This year is expected to turn up a shiny freshman class of high-profile public technology companies, from Uber and Slack, to Airbnb and Pinterest.

Lyft kicked off the wave of unicorn offerings last week, going public at a valuation of around $24 billion, after a bit of a slow start to the year for listings due to the partial federal government shutdown.

The unicorns, or companies valued at $1 billion or more, next in line to debut carry massive valuations. Uber is expected to fetch a valuation of around $120 billion, Palantir $41 billion, and Airbnb $31 billion. Slack, which has announced it will go public through a direct listing, was most recently valued at $7 billion, and Pinterest, which officially filed its S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, is worth about $12.3 billion.

But assessing a company’s worth in the private and public markets are two very different animals. Some young technology firms like Lyft are not yet profitable — a trait not uncommon among startups — making it difficult to assess their earnings history. And other “disruptor”-type companies like Airbnb are the first of their kind to list on the public market, making comparisons tough.

Some Wall Street analysts who cover Lyft say it’s a tall task to properly value the ride-hailing company since so many fundamental unknowns still surround it: How will it achieve profitability? How would Lyft fare in an economic downturn? How will its rival Uber affect its business?

“In our view, valuation is the toughest task with LYFT,” Michael Ward, an analyst at Seaport Global Securities, wrote to clients this week. “While we believe the ridesharing market will continue to grow and expect LYFT to be a prime competitor, in our view, current valuations reflect an overly optimistic view of consumer behavior in the US.”

To compare Lyft’s current valuation with the technology giants of yore, Markets Insider has compiled the valuations, annual revenue, and price-to-sales ratios of some of the more popular tech IPOs over the last two decades. A portion of the data in the slides below is from a recent report distributed by Daniel Morgan, a portfolio manager with Synovus Trust Company.

His conclusion from analyzing the price-to-sales ratios of companies like Netscape, Yahoo, and eBay is that the valuations of some of today’s unicorn valuations pale in comparison.

Morgan told clients that the valuations of recent unicorns “appear extremely low compared to the ‘Go-Go’ Days in Technology investing from 1995-1999, before the Tech Bubble Burst, when companies like Yahoo and Netscape went public at ‘Monster Size’ multiples of 238x and 171x Revenues!!!”

~source