May 9, 2019 / 11:00 AM / 2 months ago

Uber to price blockbuster IPO against grim market backdrop

NEW YORK, May 9 (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc will price its initial public offering on Thursday, the most high-profile U.S. listing since Facebook Inc seven years ago, against a backdrop of turbulent financial markets and the plunging share price of its U.S. rival Lyft Inc.

Uber is eager to avoid a repeat of what has happened to Lyft’s stock, which priced strongly in the company's late-March IPO, opened trading strongly, but has been falling mostly since. Lyft's stock slumped nearly 11 percent on Wednesday to a record closing low of $52.91, well below the $72 per share IPO price, after the ride-hailing company reported a $1.1 billion quarterly loss.

Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing company, is aiming for a valuation of between $80.5 billion and $91.5 billion in the IPO. That is as much as one-third below what the startup's insiders had hoped for last year, a sign of its more cautious approach in the wake of Lyft's struggles.

A lot of the price talk between Uber and its advisers is focusing around the mid-point of Uber's $44-$50 per share price range, though no final decision has been made, a person familiar with the matter said.

Some still consider the stock overpriced.

"Uber is basically Lyft 2.0. Good model, growing sales. But, yet again, here comes California math once more. It is still losing a ton of money," said Brian Hamilton, a tech entrepreneur and founder of data firm Sageworks. "If you buy, you are buying a bull market, not a company," he added.

Uber is due to price the IPO after U.S. markets close. A company spokesman declined to comment.

In meetings with potential investors the past two weeks, Uber's chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, argued that Uber's future was not as a ride-hailing company, but as a wide technology platform shaping logistics and transportation.

The company is hoping this pitch, coupled with any fear of missing out what is expected to be the biggest IPO of 2019, will support demand.

The IPO pricing is a balancing act for Uber's team of underwriting banks, led by Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs & Co and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, to negotiate a good price while leaving some upside to ensure the stock trades up on its market debut.

Uber is aiming to sell 180 million shares in the offering to raise up to $9 billion, with a further 27 million potentially sold by existing investors for as much as $1.35 billion.

Uber lost $3.03 billion in 2018 from operations, and reported a net loss attributable to the company for the first quarter of 2019 of around $1 billion on revenues of roughly $3 billion.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York Editing by Leslie Adler

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