Uber is valued higher than numerous established tech and automobile companies – an impressive feat given its relative youth – however, there are numerous doubts dogging the company that could scrap plans to IPO.
Presently valued at $68bn, Uber retains the title of the world’s most valuable privately held company and, were it to IPO, Uber would be the third largest company to do so; only Alibaba Group Holding (BABA) and Facebook (FB) were valued at more pre-IPO.
As a matter of fact, Uber is worth more than most large-cap internet companies, including Netflix, Paypal, Baidu and eBay, and has overtaken most automakers in terms of value, including GM, Ford and Honda. Of the automakers, only Toyota, Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW remain ahead of the young company.
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The Uber IPO debate
There are two sides to the debate. Some expect Uber to hold off going public for as long as possible, including board member Bill Gurley, who in September 2016 said that the company is waiting to see what comes from the current increase in competition from other ride-hailing services.
Uber has long been locked in a price race with its main US competitor, Lyft. Although Uber is in first place with what’s said to be 80% of the ride-hailing market share in the US, both companies frequently offer heavy subsidies in an effort to woo both new drivers and new passengers, and have even resorted to more nefarious tactics to leave the other in the dust. Lyft posted an operating loss of $360m in 2015 in an effort to overtake its competitors, while Uber reportedly blew out a whopping $1.27bn in the first half of 2016, in part to compete with its Chinese competitor, Didi Chuxing.
The other school of thought insists that Uber should look to give its IPO the green light as soon as possible, with shareholders eager to get the highest possible price for the company. Given that the company has yet to turn a profit – in fact, according to TechCrunch, losses of $3bn could be announced for the whole of 2016 – the claim is that Uber should go to IPO before growth slows significantly and investors lose interest.
Uncertain roads ahead
Recently, an increase in coverage of driverless cars and rights for drivers have put the long-term growth of the company into doubt. There’s also the small factor that its low-cost Uberpop service has been outright banned in a number of countries, limiting company growth potential and provoking a backlash against the app in some communities.