By Faiz Siddiqui / The Washington Post
Uber filed documents on Thursday to take the ride-hailing giant public, the most anticipated in a year of high-profile technology stock exchange listings.
It’s a watershed moment for Uber, which said its stock market symbol would be UBER. Since its launch in 2009, it has aimed for global dominance of the ride-hailing industry through a cash-burning strategy of investor-subsidized fares and expanded its business in recent years to include food delivery, self-driving vehicles and alternatives to car transport such as bikes and scooters. As one of the pioneers of the gig economy, it has grown to rely on contractor drivers, of which it said it had 3.9 million by the end of last year. It has however struggled to stem its billions of dollars of losses and has been forced to exit some markets, caving to competition from local rivals.
In the documents released Thursday, Uber said it operates in over 700 cities. It said its revenue last year rose 42% to reach $11.3 billion, and it achieved a $1 billion profit, derived from selling some of its overseas businesses. Its operating losses last year totaled $1.8 billion.
Uber for years has been one of the most highly-valued of a crop of venture-backed startups, that includes its North American rival Lyft, which went public last month, as well as bookmarking site Pinterest and room-booking service Airbnb.
But Uber’s growth was slowed by a raft of scandals beginning in 2016 that ultimately led to the ouster of its CEO, Travis Kalanick. Uber had been faulted for a culture of workplace sexual harassment, programs to evade regulators and a viral video of Kalanick lambasting a driver as the company faced mounting pressure of treatment of its contract workforce.
Lyft went public with a relatively strong operating position in the wake of the viral #DeleteUber campaign, and it claimed having about 40 percent of the U.S. market share. But Lyft’s shares have fallen starkly since opening at $72 in late March, closing at just over $61 Wednesday, raising some investor concerns about the sustainability of the ride-hailing model.
Former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took over management of Uber in 2017 and has aimed to restore the company’s standing with a more cautious approach to safety issues and acknowledgment of the company’s faults. Uber is a considerably larger business than Lyft, operating in countries across the globe including Brazil, Mexico and India, as well as the Middle East, where it recently acquired Careem.