May 27, 2019
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Uber is the largest new US listing since 2014, valuation at $82 billion

By Corrie Driebusch and Maureen Farrell

New York (USA), May 10 (efe-epa).- Uber Technologies priced its initial public offering at $45 a share, near the low end of its expected range as the ride-hailing giant grapples with choppy markets and the disappointing debut of its chief rival, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report made available to EFE on Friday.

At that price, Uber, which had been targeting a range of $44 to $50 a share, would raise $8.1 billion and command a valuation of about $82 billion.

That valuation makes it the largest United States-listed IPO since Alibaba Group Holding went public in 2014.

Still, it is less than the $90 billion to $100 billion the ride-hailing giant had earlier targeted.

The pricing, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, sets the stage for Uber's much-hyped trading start Friday, the biggest moment in a year that could break records for IPO activity.

How the shares trade could help set the tone for the rest of the year, with other big technology startups like WeWork Cos. and Slack Technologies Inc. still waiting in the wings.

It is far from certain the market will warmly welcome Uber shares. Lyft Inc., Uber's closest rival, has stumbled badly since it began trading publicly in March, with the shares down more than 20 percent from their IPO price.

Mindful of that, and an uptick in market jitters in recent days, Uber and its underwriters are taking a conservative approach to pricing the shares after two weeks of roadshow meetings with investors. There was demand for the shares at higher prices but Uber sought to put them in the hands of as many institutional investors as possible, given their penchant for being more long-term-oriented than hedge-fund and retail investors, according to people familiar with the matter.

Potential investors have also expressed concern that Uber's existing shareholders, sitting on big paper gains after the ride-hailing pioneer's value exploded since it was founded 10 years ago, could find ways to circumvent a lockup that bars them from selling for six months.

Before Lyft made its debut, George Soros purchased a big stake in the company from fellow billionaire Carl Icahn.

A hedge Soros established before buying the stock may have contributed to selling pressure on Lyft, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Indeed, Uber added as a risk factor to its IPO paperwork the possibility that its existing shareholders could engage in "sales, short sales or hedging transactions...whether or not we believe them to be prohibited."

Uber stands out among a group of private technology companies that have raised vast sums at steep valuations: Its fundraising has eclipsed that of all the others in the US, amounting to nearly $20 billion in equity and debt.

For that reason, many of Wall Street's biggest IPO buyers have already poured big sums into the company, and that could have dampened their interest in buying more shares in the IPO.

BlackRock Inc. funds, for example, already hold roughly 9.8 million shares of Uber's stock, according to regulatory filings, valued at more than $400 million.

Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi and Chief Financial Officer Nelson Chai have been flying between London, New York, San Francisco and other cities to meet potential investors and drum up interest in Uber's IPO.

In the meetings, they have been painting a promising future for the company, one in which most people won't own cars and instead will hire self-driving vehicles, electric bikes or scooters.

But at a luncheon with investors in New York City last week, Khosrowshahi and Chai were also asked questions about "the big elephants in the room," that is, decelerating growth and the company's steep losses, according to someone who attended.

Uber's loss in the 12 months through March rose to more than $3.7 billion, by far the largest ever for a US startup in the year before an IPO, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Khosrawshahi took a break Monday night to attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala in New York with his wife, who wore a dress adorned with cars. They chose to go in through an alternative entrance to avoid being photographed.

Uber's co-founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, also attended but like most guests entered the museum through the main entrance.

They'll both be at the New York Stock Exchange Friday morning when Uber rings the opening bell before it starts trading as a public company under the ticker UBER.

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