Google parent Alphabet said to consider US$1b investment in Uber rival Lyft

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Alphabet Inc has held conversations with Lyft about a potential investment in recent weeks, signalling strong support for Uber Technologies' main US competitor, according to people familiar with the matter.

An investment of about US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in Lyft may come from Google or CapitalG, Alphabet's private-equity arm, said some of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. A deal may not come together. Alphabet and Lyft declined to comment.

Alphabet is also an Uber shareholder through its GV venture capital arm, but Waymo, a unit of Alphabet, is currently suing Uber over self-driving car technology. As the relationship has deteriorated, Waymo signed a partnership with Lyft to work together on testing autonomous vehicles.

While Lyft has recently focused on controlling spending, the cash would allow the San Francisco-based startup to pursue more aggressive growth with subsidies for drivers, discounts for riders and marketing. Lyft kicked off a major television campaign this month that stars Jeff Bridges.

With an extra US$1 billion, Lyft would be able to ensure its independence for the near future, something co-founder John Zimmer has said is a priority. But some investors have suggested Alphabet would be a natural home for the ride-hailing startup. Lyft held informal talks with Alphabet and other potential acquirers last year but didn't pursue a sale.

Lyft has gained market share this year as Uber has bent under a series of self-inflicted scandals. Uber faces at least three US probes and several high-profile lawsuits. Dara Khosrowshahi, the former Expedia chief executive officer, took over as Uber's new chief last week. He's looking to complete a fundraising deal of his own: Uber is advancing on an investment from SoftBank Group and others of as much as US$12 billion, most of which would allow existing shareholders to cash out.