Uber Technologies (UBER) - Get Report will debut on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, after raising just over $8 billion from its much-anticipated initial public offering that values the ride-sharing group at $82.4 billion, against a volatile market backdrop and ongoing controversy over its business practices.
Uber shares were indicated in the range of $45 and $45.50 at the start of floor trading after it priced the 180 million share offering at $45 each, near the bottom of the $44 to $50 range its Wall Street advisors had marketed the stock to investors in the weeks prior to today's listing, which will be the biggest for a U.S.-based company since Facebook's Inc. (FB) - Get Report flotation in 2012. The listing will earn Uber $8.1 billion -- an amount that nearly matches the ride-sharing group's losses over the past three years -- and gives it a market value of $82.4 billion.
Friday's debut, however, could give Uber investors a rough ride, given both the current global market volatility linked to the U.S-China trade war, which has pushed domestic stocks into their worst weak of the year, and the troubling sell-off in shares of ride-sharing rival Lyft Inc. (LYFT) - Get Report , which debuted on March 29, rose to $87 a share in the opening minutes of trading before plunging 40% over the following weeks -- including a 5.65% slide today -- to trade at a record low $52.06 per share.
"Until some clarity emerges (on U.S-China trade), we'd say risk assets, including US equities, look vulnerable - especially after the largely uninterrupted rally since December," said ING's global head of strategy Chris Turner. "For today, the focus on Wall Street will be Uber's IPO - 'conservatively' priced at $45 per share and presumably expected to surge on its NYSE debut."
"This may provide some temporary support to equities, but unless we see a breakthrough in US-China trade relations, we're fearful that the rally fizzles and the defensive mind set extends into next week," he added.
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Uber, however, is in a much better position than Lfyt to keep investors on board, despite its long strong of annual losses that the company says are likely to continue over the near term.
With revenues expected to rise 20% this year and 25% in 2020, to $13.5 billion and $17 billion respectively, Uber is at least generating cash flow as it seeks to capitalize on its dominant position in the biggest ride-sharing markets in the world. In fact, even with an $82 billion valuation, Uber could be seen as a cheap way to invest in a market that could be worth as much as $5.7 trillion in the coming years, according to some estimates, as more and more people shun traditional car ownership in favor of the new "transportation as a service" model of business.
Uber also has a leg up on Lyft with a secondary revenue stream -- the Uber Eats food delivery service -- that booked $7.9 billion worth of business last year and is the world's largest outside of the Chinese market.
In fact, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi touted the group's ability to leverage "transportation as a service", and not simply ride-hailing, in his pitch to investors over the past few weeks, citing opportunities in shopping, grocery delivery and larger freight movement.
That tact might not be surprising, however, for a group who's ride-sharing business is under attack from regulators around the world, many of which accuse the company of skirting transportation regulators by claiming to be a technology company, and who's drivers are becoming increasingly vocal -- and publicly defiant -- over wages and working conditions.
U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, the bookies favorite to become Prime Minister at the next general election, Tweeted earlier this week that "Uber cannot be allowed to get away with huge payouts for their CEOs while refusing to pay drivers a decent wage and respect their rights at work," a view that suggests the group's challenges in London, the biggest market in Europe, won't be easily dismissed.
U.S. Presidential hopefully Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has targeted the $143 million in compensation paid to senior management, including $45 million for Khosrowshahi, as he Tweeted support for striking Uber drivers in major cities around the country.