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Home / Special Reports / Uber IPO

This report is not a personal recommendation and does not take into account your personal circumstances or appetite for risk.

2 May 2019

Uber IPO

On April 11th 2019, Uber Technologies Inc. filed an S-1 registration, opening the path towards its initial public offering. And thus, one of the most anticipated IPOs in history was born. The tech and transportation giant offering up its shares to the public will be a real test for the maturity and stability of a company which is no stranger to controversy.

As with all IPOs of large companies, the public listing can represent an immense opportunity for investors. But opportunities never come risk-free. So, make sure you know as much about Uber as you can before deciding to jump in the ring and investing!


The unicorn, the IPO and the button

Uber – The road so far

What if you could have a car pick you up in a couple of minutes at the push of a button? That was the dream of founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp back when they founded the company in 2009.

10 years later and Uber operates in over 65 countries worldwide and has a market share of close to 70% in the United States. The company is one of the pioneers of sharing-economy, aiming to operate as a bridge between people who offer temporary access to their personal assets or services. In this case, doing what your Mum and Dad always told you not to do: getting in a car with a stranger.

Ten years later, Uber crossed quite the bumpy road. Rapid expansion, becoming a multibillion-dollar enterprise and strong diversification were also met along the way with scandals of alleged sexual harassment, resignation of its CEO and cofounder and opposition from taxi drivers and regulators worldwide.

And still, here we are, 2019, probably less than a month away from Uber going public. What will this next step in the company’s life bring?

Wait, what is an IPO anyway?

Private companies have the option to open up their ownership and sell small or large parts (shares) of themselves to the public. When they first sell their shares, they do so through an initial offer so the free market can own and value what their stock is worth. Hence the name: Initial Public Offering (IPO).

A company going public could be a sign of it maturing and being confident enough in their product so they can essentially raise more capital through the public investing in it. But not all large successful corporations are public. Enterprises like Ikea or Mars are private entities worth billions.

For Uber, going public will mean gaining some while losing some. Although the company will most likely raise a very important amount of capital so it can expand and grow, the IPO will also mean public scrutiny of the company, much more transparency in day-to-day operations and overall less room for error on the part of management. You get the cash, but you will be under a massive magnifying glass.

How could the Uber IPO play out?

Ok, so what do we know? We know that Uber will most likely go public in May 2019 on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker UBER. What don’t we know? Well, really, most everything else.

According to various sources, Uber is seeking to sell roughly 10% of the company for $10 billion at a valuation of $100 billion, with shares being between $48 and $55. These figures put Uber up there along other big IPOs. Facebook managed to raise $16 billion with its offering back in 2012, while Alibaba Group managed to gather a whopping $25 billion when it went public in 2014.

But how much is a company worth? How reliable is it to believe the estimates of only the people and institutions that are invested in a company before its IPO? This is were the practice is more art than science. Doing a thorough and profound analysis of a company can bring you quite close to how much a company is really worth.

Things like how much its assets are worth, what the Profit/Loss ratio is, percentage revenue growth, its own investments and brand recognition are all things that you can put a number on. But even so, the market can deem it too expensive or too cheap based on mass psychology and sentiment. Therefore, the safest bet for correctly valuating an IPO is valuating it more within a price area rather than a fixed sum.

For Uber, the company’s target is a valuation of $100 billion. To be somewhat safe, markets assume the IPO will close somewhere in the range of $70-$120 billion. Right when it will float, the price may likely go up and down like crazy just due to the sheer amount of anticipation and market enthusiasm for the stock.

Uber is a very well capitalized company with a lot of funding behind it and a recognised brand but hugely unprofitable, fighting regulators on several fronts and no stranger to controversy. The price at the end of the IPO’s day is anybody’s guess.

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Ready to rumble? Comparisons for the Uber IPO

Stacking up to the competition

2019 is expected to be a huge year for tech IPOs with the likes of Deliveroo, WeWork, Slack, Airbnb and Palantir expected to go public. Other tech companies like Pinterest or Uber rival Lyft have already floated their offer. As some of these companies haven’t went public yet we can’t compare their post IPO valuation. However, there is value in finding similarities between the ways they were valued in private stock transactions. Uber’s private valuation is larger than that of Airbnb and Palantir combined. And its IPO size is 5 times that of Pinterest and Zoom’s IPO combined.

Large private valuations aren’t a guarantee of a successful offering that shoots the fresh stock’s price up. However, it can be an early indicator of investor interest in the business.

At the end of the day, there are many factors that go into how a stock will perform at its IPO. Initially, the price moves a lot due to all the new and old investors buying into or selling their shares. This volatility is exacerbated when a company’s flotation is highly anticipated, which is definitely the case for Uber.

Moreover, performance at IPO isn’t a definitive indicator of the strength of a company. Stock performance in general isn’t either. There are a bunch of great companies out there that are undervalued, as there are a lot of others which are overpriced compared to their fundamentals. Wouldn’t be too many opportunities to make money off the market if it were any different.

For example, Amazon’s stock managed to get back to its all time high of $111 from 1999 more than ten years later in October of 2009. Today, the price sits at $1923, putting Amazon at over $1 trillion market cap. All this for a company which was famously unprofitable for many years.

A different example is Snapchat’s IPO performance. The company floated on the 2nd of March 2017, with its all time high being close to $30. Today, in April of 2019, the price is trading at almost $12 from its all time low of $4.8 per share back in December 2018.

All these factors and many more will account specifically on how the Uber IPO will perform. Whether it will exceed expectations or be dragged down by its own hype is an answer for another day, sometime in May.

Of mice and men…and cars…and tech – Uber vs. Lyft

The best possible comparison we can do for Uber and its impending IPO at this time is with its main US rival Lyft. Why? Easy: They are direct competitors, both are ride-sharing apps, they have similar customer acquisition and marketing strategies, both invest in future tech like autonomous driving and their prices are in the same range. Moreover, when Uber introduced a driver promotion, Lyft made sure to do the same. And last but not least, both are going public at roughly the same time, with Lyft already being public as of March 28th 2019.

Now, apples and oranges may both be fruit but there is a swath of differences between them. Just like the two ride-sharing apps. While Lyft operates in the US and Canada, Uber operates in 65 countries. Lyft has a more hippie-friendly culture, while Uber is more business-centric. Uber employs around 20,000 people globally, while Lyft has 4,500.

Uber’s market share in the US is around 69% while Lyft’s is about 30%, with the remaining 1% or so being other ride-sharing companies. If in a couple of years Uber manages to completely surpass Lyft or outperforming it out of the market would mean that Uber would have a monopoly on ride-sharing. But while Uber is definitely ahead in market share, momentum does seem to be on Lyft’s side.

On the financial side, Uber is also ahead of its competition, having reported revenues of $2.95 billion in Q3 2018 against its pinker alternative’s $563 million. However, Lyft does have an advantage in this area, in that of its losses are proportionally smaller.

While Uber has shown a slowdown in growth, it does have roughly four times the revenue. But as revenue is vanity, profit is sanity and cash flow is reality, money in the bank isn’t everything, as Lyft’s revenue is growing twice as fast as Uber’s.

Last but not least, Lyft’s recent IPO debacle could be a foreshadowing for an even bigger flop for Uber. The IPO’s performance was well below expectations and that might have dampened enthusiasm come Uber’s turn to issue. Nevertheless, we could continue comparing the two rivals in anything.

But what will mostly determine Uber’s IPO will be Uber itself. And for any smart investor, it’s sometimes as easy as making a list of pros and cons.

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The good, the bad and the app

It’s lonely at the top - The strengths of Uber

Let’s be honest, if you live in a fairly large city, how many of your friends say: “Let’s grab a Taxi!” anymore? It’s Uber this and Uber that whenever you want to come home after that one pint of beer too many. In a span of ten years, Uber went from a promising start-up in the US to being one of the most recognised brands. You, your partner, your boss and his cousin, all of them have most likely used Uber at least once. So, let’s take a look at what makes the company strong:

Both the number of riders and drivers have been steadily going up these past years. For 2018, the company has reported roughly 75 million passengers served by roughly 3 million drivers, 750.000 of which are in the United States. Customers took roughly 5.2 billion trips over the course of ten years. Now, to be completely fair, there is some nuance into how Uber counts those trips, as if 3 people took a ride with Uber Pool, the company reports this as 3 separate trips.

Nevertheless, the number of riders and drivers is steadily growing every year, as people prefer to save money on gas, find the service more convenient, green and cheaper and are less and less inclined to rely on their personal car in very large metropolitan areas. Being stuck in traffic is no fun.

With only 2% of people who live in the 65+ countries where Uber operates have used the service as of 2018. There is a lot of room for potential.

Rides themselves aren’t the only forte for Uber. Diversification is an important part of any long-term sustainable and mature business. Not having 100% of one’s operations rely on a single sector provides protection in case of a massive blow to performance. And one of the strongest revenue generators for the company has been Uber Eats

In 2018, Uber Eats delivered over $6 billion of food and is on track to deliver $10 billion. With an estimated revenue of $1 billion for 2019, the food delivery service will bring 7-10% of Uber’s total revenue.

Diversification doesn’t stop at food, as the company also has Uber Freight, its bet in the $750 billion trucking industry. The freight broker is gaining decent ground in the market with competitors like NEXT Freight or Convoy. The company reported roughly $500 million in revenues in 2018

Uber’s acquisition of bike-sharing start-up Jump in 2018 opened up the company to alternative transportation methods. A lot of R&D is going into making high quality (and eventually self-driving) electric bikes and scooters.

We can’t talk about Uber without mentioning its hefty investments in autonomous driving. Uber is one of the most important players in an industry packed with huge names like Waymo (Google’s former self-driving car project), Tesla, Lyft, GM, Apple, Audi and Mercedes Benz. Uber’s goal is to have a fleet of 75,000 autonomous vehicles on the streets of 13 cities by 2022.

After former CEO Travis Kalanick resigned in 2017 the ride-sharing giant had to make changes to its perception. And new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has managed, with relative success, to make the company more inclusive, and not be constantly dominated by allegations of sexual harassment and introducing zero fee tipping options for drivers.

There is a Japanese saying: A man is whatever room he is in. And Uber is in a room with some pretty strong investors. Just to give an example, the Vision Fund owns a 16.3% stake in Uber. Vision Fund is the largest of its kind in the world, totalling a pool of $100 billion from Japan's SoftBank, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund also owns a direct stake of 5.3% in Uber.

With Uber being as strong as it is in the transportation business, moving around food, cargo and people, it all seems to go in the direction of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s ambition of making the company into the “Amazon of transportation”.

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men - The vulnerabilities of Uber

As strong as the ride-sharing giant could be, you might want to hold on a bit before getting a second mortgage on your house in order to buy up Uber shares.

Let’s start with the elephant (or SUV) in the room: Uber isn’t profitable. In fact, it’s losing an immense amount of money each year and according to themselves, they might never be profitable. Operating expenses will reasonably continue to grow and when you add the truck-loads of money that the company burns on acquisitions and R&D for various projects, the numbers just don’t add up. Uber doesn’t make enough money from rides to upset its expenses.

In 2018, Uber lost around $3.3 billion. And the worst part isn’t even net losses. What should concern investors more is the slowdown of revenue growth. In Q4 of 2018, revenue grew by 2% compared to the Q3 38% rise. Strategies to fend off competitors in Latin and Lyft in general are taking a toll on how the company grows from month to month.

(graph courtesy of New Constructs LLC)

Looking at the broader picture, it seems as though Uber has a simple conundrum: It is way too big to be profitable. If it wants to be profitable, it has to squeeze its driver’s earnings. Companies like Bolt in Europe show that ride-sharing can be profitable, however at the cost of aggressive expansion. Be big or make money, Uber can’t have both. Not yet at least.

Trying to dominate the market while being affordable? Services this cheap have to burn money from somewhere. Most likely from the funding piggy bank. So yes, indirectly, the ride you took in that Mercedes Benz for £8 is in part subsidized by multi-millionaire investors.

The hopes that investors have for the ride-sharing behemoth are also fuelled by the dream that they are sold. According to Uber, they are at the beginning of a journey which will take them to capturing a $12 trillion total market that will include personal mobility, ride-sharing, food delivery, freight shipping and autonomous driving. It might sound good until you realise that the World Bank estimated global GDP at $80 trillion in 2018. Uber is stating that it will capture 15% of the global economy. Good luck!

Before becoming one of the largest economies in the world, Uber still has to access or survive in certain markets. In 2016, Uber had sold its operations in China, ceding the reigns of “one-button-pushing-car-pickup” to Didi Chuxing. All for a $1 billion deal and an 18% stake in Didi.

But let’s also remember that Amazon was not profitable for over 20 years. Today its market cap is over $1 trillion and made $2.5 billion profit in 2018. Another similar example was Facebook’s disastrous IPO. After a 60% drop to its all-time low, today Facebook stock is doing quite nicely. Trading at $198 per share, close to an all-time high. However, this IPO was all for a company which had reported $1.8 billion in operating profit, an 88% revenue growth and 900 million users.

One of the more constant pains for Uber was the bad press it kept getting itself into over these past years. From allegations of sexual harassment in its offices, to not promoting women, booking thousands of fake rides from Lyft, an executive reportedly digging for dirt on a journalist, spying on politicians and celebrities, one of its autonomous cars killing a pedestrian in Arizona or its CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick resigning. For a public company, every scandal is an excuse for its share price to fall.


Another potential problem would be the status of its drivers. Uber being forced into considering its drivers as employees would present an issue for the company. Imagine all of the minimum wage laws, taxes and benefits that Uber would have to abide by. All of them eating into its revenue even more.

There is also its reputation of being a very reckless spender. Uber’s ambition for a fleet of autonomous trucks that was supposed to take over the freighter industry cost a total of $250 million. Now, that investment didn’t all go to waste, as Uber is well on track to making its self-driving car. A venture which is apparently burning through $20 million each month.

Speaking of regulators and bad PR, do you know what they all have in common? Taxi drivers. First, there is the image problem. All those violent riots in Brussels or Paris generate uncertainty and controversy around the company. Also, drivers will be less inclined to go out with the risk of getting their car smashed. When you are publicly listed, people tend to buy or sell based on these factors. Second, the pressure that Taxi companies can put on their national regulators to force Uber into operating as a taxi provider. This means certificates, medallions, insurance policies and a whole other level of bureaucracy.

The road to hell might be paved with good intentions but the road to success is definitely paved with a special type of brick called “make-more-money-than-you-spend”.

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Trading the IPO with Accendo

Like any smart investor, after going through all the relevant research regarding Uber, you might consider trading its stock! We don’t yet know the exact date for the IPO but most signs point towards sometimes in May 2019.

Although you don’t have the option to trade Uber pre-IPO with us, once its offer is up and running and the stock is public, you can buy and sell its shares with Accendo Markets!

As it happens with extremely anticipated IPOs, a lot of investor prefer to wait for a couple of months until the company is valued more or less where the market genuinely deems it fair. And just because the stock might go down for a while after the issuance, remind yourself that Facebook, Amazon or Ferrari all had poor stock performance post

This is just the beginning of the road. You can always count on Accendo Markets to give you up to date news regarding Uber, its performance and all relevant data for this exciting stock starting day 1!


What’s on the Horizon?

2019 is expected to be a massive year for tech IPOs. Airbnb, Slack, Palantir, Robinhood, Deliveroo, Postmates and WeWork are all expected to go public this year. Lyft, Spotify and Pinterest have all already had their IPO.

A profitable trader is an informed trader and Accendo Markets is here to help you navigate this exciting year in stocks!

For additional coverage of the latest and upcoming IPOs, tech stocks and thorough research, you can also click here for our research Gold Pass.

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Want to take advantage of the above opportunities right now?

Whether you see UK Stocks going up or down for the remainder of the year, tradable opportunities will present themselves regularly. We’re here to help you weed them out and capitalise on them. Accendo Markets can help you increase your profit potential with the use of leveraged instruments such as CFDs, a flexible alternative to traditional shares that is currently exempt from UK stamp duty.

CFDs: Like shares, but more flexible

While buying 15,730 shares in Lloyds Banking @ 63.57p requires an outlay of around £10,000 plus commission, the same exposure via a CFD requires about £2,000 plus commission (see right-hand box; margin + costs). If a trader invests in Lloyds Banking, one would assume they believe the share price is likely to move in their favour. After considering the ‘worst case scenario’ and assigning funds to cover it, the trader may conclude there’s little point in exposing the full £10,000 to Lloyds Banking shares - some of that capital could be put to good use elsewhere in the markets. (Source: CMC, Prices indicative)

CFDs are leveraged instruments, but you don’t have to use leverage

If you had, say, £10,000 to invest in the stock market, you could deposit that amount into a share dealing account and purchase shares in a company. You would pay commission to open the position, 0.5% in stamp duty and the full £10,000 will be tied up in your chosen shares with any profit or loss based on that exposure. The same £10,000 worth of exposure can be secured with a CFD for a fraction of the initial outlay thanks to leverage, with the risk and reward the same as if £10,000 worth of traditional shares were held. But should you not be interested in leverage, you can always treat CFDs like shares. Simply deposit £10,000 into a CFD trading account and take the equivalent CFD position which will tie up as little as 20%/£2,000 (note that overnight financing costs will still apply). The remaining £8,000 is not tied up, so you can use some of that to take advantage of another short-term opportunity elsewhere, or simply leave it on the account to support any losses. Best of all, using a CFD means you pay no stamp duty!

What’s your view?

Think shares will rise? Take a long position by buying CFDs (buy low, aiming to sell high). Think they’ll fall? Take a short position by selling CFDs (sell high, aiming to buy low). For a more detailed rundown of CFDs, their mechanics, associated costs and some trading scenarios download our ‘Comprehensive Guide to CFDs’ here.

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The Accendo Markets Research Offering

Does your current broker’s morning report tell you all you need to know about yesterday’s news? If so, how is it offering you anything more than the plethora of information already available on the internet?

We are proud that our morning editorial has become a hot commodity in the City, its content quoted daily by the journalists that are writing the news everyone else will be reading later in the day, if not the next. Our morning report tells you what is driving the market at that moment and what to look out for in the day ahead.

If a company has reported earnings before the market opens, we will tell you why the shares are called to open higher or lower in relation to that announcement.

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Page: 06

This research is produced by Accendo Markets Limited. Research produced and disseminated by Accendo Markets is classified as non-independent research, and is therefore a marketing communication. This investment research has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote its independence and it is not subject to the prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research. This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or offer to enter into a transaction or an investment, and is produced and distributed for information purposes only.

Accendo Markets considers opinions and information contained within the research to be valid when published, and gives no warranty as to the investments referred to in this material. The income from the investments referred to may go down as well as up, and investors may realise losses on investments. The past performance of a particular investment is not necessarily a guide to its future performance.

Prepared by Michael van Dulken, Head of Research
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.