Uber shares sink during IPO trading debut

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Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange during the initial public offering (IPO) of Uber Technologies Inc., in New York, the United States, May 10, 2019. U.S. ride hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. began trading on the NYSE on Friday. Xinhua/Wang Ying

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc’s conservative initial public offering could not keep its shares from sinking in their trading debut on Friday, fueling debate on Wall Street over whether the outcome of the most anticipated listing since Facebook Inc would weigh on other Silicon Valley unicorns.

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Uber considered going public for at least four years. Yet the ride-hailing company picked a week for its IPO plagued by market turbulence fueled by US-China trade worries. Moreover, smaller rival Lyft Inc’s shares plunged this week after its first earnings as a public company.

Uber was the biggest of a group of Silicon Valley startups that have spent years raising money in private rounds at record prices. Many of these companies are now looking to follow with their own IPO. Some, like Uber and Lyft, are unprofitable.

Workplace messaging company Slack Technologies Inc plans to hold an investor presentation on Monday in advance of its direct listing next month. Grocery and food delivery platform Postmates, WeWork owner The We Company and online mattress retailer Casper Sleep are among startups seeking to launch IPOs this year.

“If a venture capital investor wants to burn cash they can do that as long as they want, but once you get to the public markets you have to show profitability or a path to it,” said Jordan Stuart, a portfolio manager at Federated Kaufmann who often purchases companies’ shares during an IPO.

Uber’s shares ended the day down 7.6% at $41.57, even as the S&P 500 reversed losses to end in positive territory. Only about a fifth of IPOs have ended their first day of trading in the red in the last two years, according to Dealogic data.

Uber priced its IPO on Thursday at the low end of its targeted range, hoping that approach would spare it the trading plunge suffered by Lyft.

Lyft ended down 6.9% on Friday, and is 28 percent below its IPO price.

Still, the world’s largest ride-hailing company appeared to generate more interest from mom-and-pop investors than Lyft. Retail investors at TD Ameritrade executed more trades in the first ten minutes of Uber’s debut than in Lyft’s first 2-1/2 hours.

Uber had already lowered its valuation expectations twice in the last two months to address investor concerns over its mounting losses.

While early-stage Uber investors such as Benchmark, Menlo Ventures, First Round Capital and Lowercase Capital made a killing in the IPO, some late-stage backers did not fare as well.

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, for example, invested in Uber in early 2018 at $48.77 per share. It also bought shares at a much lower price in a large secondary transaction.

To be sure, other IPOs have traded well so far in 2019, including online scrapbook company Pinterest Inc, vegan burger maker Beyond Meat Inc and video-conferencing startup Zoom Video Communications Inc. But these were much smaller startups than Uber that did not execute as many frothy fundraising rounds.

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