Uber shares fall below IPO price in debut on NYSE

NEW YORK • After the biggest initial public offering (IPO) of the year, Uber Technologies ended its first day of trading on Friday below its last private valuation.

The deflated debut cast a pall over 2019's prospects as the hottest year for tech listings this decade - and potentially on the future of the ride-hailing industry.

It took more than two hours for the stock to finally start trading after Uber executives and drivers congregated at the New York Stock Exchange for the bell-ringing ceremony.

The shares debuted at US$42, well below the IPO price of US$45.

A tense wait for those gathered on the trading floor turned into a jittery start for the newly public company, which touched its intraday high and low prices within the first hour of opening.

Uber closed at US$41.57, giving it a market capitalisation of just US$69.7 billion(S$95 billion).

The San Francisco company last raised private capital from Toyota Motor last August at a valuation of about US$76 billion.

Uber chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi said in an interview on the floor of the exchange on Friday that trade tensions between the US and China played a role in the stock's weak performance.

US President Donald Trump had moved overnight to slap fresh tariffs on Chinese goods.

"You can't pick when you go public," Mr Khosrowshahi said.

But Uber shares extended losses into the close, even as US equities stabilised on renewed optimism that an all-out trade war could be averted.

The tumultuous debut makes Uber the newest member of a stock market club no one would choose to join: Since the start of the decade, just seven other companies that raised more than US$1 billion in their IPO have ended the first day of trading in the red.

Uber's inauguration as a public company was sure to be closely watched by the cavalcade of IPO hopefuls lining up to list in 2019.

That crop includes Peloton Interactive, Postmates, Slack Technologies and WeWork, all of which have preparations in progress to go public this year.

Along with Uber, they will be following companies like Lyft, Pinterest and Beyond Meat to market.

Those three offerings provide a few clues for how public market investors are going to treat unprofitable start-ups with huge private valuations.

Columbia Business School professor Len Sherman said: "The market has reacted negatively to a shared reality that both Lyft and Uber are struggling with a fundamentally broken business model. Uber has lost more money faster than any start-up in history, with no clear path to profitability."

Uber's losses just last year totalled US$3.04 billion on an operating basis, with revenue of US$11.3 billion. Its total operating losses over the past three years were more than US$10 billion, according to filings.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 12, 2019, with the headline 'Uber shares fall below IPO price in debut on NYSE'. Print Edition | Subscribe