Lyft files for IPO before Uber

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SAN FRANCISCO — Lyft Inc inched closer to becoming the first ride-hailing company to make a stock market debut by releasing its filing for an initial public offering on Friday, revealing to the public a detailed look at its financial performance.

The filing with U.S. securities regulators makes it all but certain that will hold its ahead of larger rival Uber Technologies Inc, as it was one of the few remaining tasks before the company can launch a roadshow to pitch prospective investors.

Lyft’s revenue was $2.16 billion for 2018, double the previous year and up 528 percent from 2016, according to the documents.

Its gross bookings, or the total value of the rides it sells before driver pay is deducted, reached $8.05 billion last year, 76 percent above the prior year and 323 percent above 2016 bookings.

But the company has been operating with heavy losses. It posted a loss of $911 million for 2018, which climbed from $688 million in 2017 and $682 million in 2016, according to the filing.

And losses could continue, Lyft cautioned, as the seven-year-old company continues to invest and expand.

Lyft has so far kept its businesses confined to the United States and Canada. Sources say Lyft has been plotting an expansion to Australia and Mexico, which would increase its cash burn. The company also continues to subsidize rides to attract riders and offer bonuses to enlist drivers.

is also unprofitable, and in 2018 lost $1.8 billion before taxes, depreciation and other expenses. Unlike Lyft, Uber for the last few quarters has shared selected financial data with the public.

San Francisco-based Lyft is positioned to become the first Wall Street debut from a group of highly valued, venture-backed companies including Pinterest and Slack that are expected go public this year.

The company expects to be valued at between $20 billion and $25 billion in its IPO, up from its current $15 billion valuation, sources have told Reuters. Lyft plans to launch its two-week roadshow the week of March 18, Reuters reported last week, setting up the company for an early April debut on Wall Street.

Uber, a larger company with a more diverse set of businesses, needs several more weeks for its IPO preparations.

A high valuation for Lyft would bode well for Uber’s prospects. At a $25 billion valuation, Lyft would be trading at nearly 12 times its annual revenue. The same multiple would suggest a roughly $135 billion valuation for Uber, which had $11.3 billion in revenue last year.

REVENUE FROM BIKES, SCOOTERS NOT MATERIAL

Both Lyft and Uber filed confidentially for an IPO with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in December, a process that gives privately held companies more time to keep their financials secret and reduce their exposure to market fluctuations.

Companies must release the formal version of the filing before their roadshow.

Lyft has been eager to emphasize its growth to investors over its total revenue, which is dwarfed by Uber. Lyft said that as of December it held 39 percent of the U.S. ride-hailing market, up from 22 percent at the end of 2016.

Lyft said that last year it had 30.7 million riders and 1.9 million drivers in the more than 300 U.S. and Canadian cities where it operates.

The number of active riders jumped 47 percent in the fourth quarter over the same time period in 2017, according to the filing. Lyft completed 178 million rides in the fourth quarter.

Lyft does not expect to make much money in the near future on its expansion into bike and scooter renting. Both Uber and Lyft have started offering bikes and scooters as alternatives to car rides for short trips, hopeful that a transportation option that does not involve paying drivers will prove more profitable.

But Lyft’s 2018 acquisition of Motivate, a bike-sharing network, is not expected to materially increase revenue in the short term, according to the filing. Revenue from Lyft’s scooter business was also not material.

The company’s IPO includes a dual-class stock structure, with one class of shareholders getting 20 votes per share and another getting just one vote per share.

Dual-class share structures are increasingly common among technology companies, although Uber got rid of its dual-class stock as part of a broader governance reform.

Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer each own about 1.2 million shares. The company’s largest shareholder is Rakuten Inc, a Japanese internet company that invested in Lyft in 2015 and made several subsequent investments, and owns a more than 13 percent stake.

Other top shareholders include General Motors Co and Fidelity Investments, with just under 8 percent stakes each; venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which owns more than 6 percent; and Alphabet Inc, with more than 5 percent of shares.

Reporting by Heather Somerville.

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