Given how hot Uber and Lyft are in terms of media attention and public interest, it's no surprise that people want to invest in the privately held companies. Of course, neither company has confirmed an initial public offering nor mentioned that it definitively plans to follow that path.
In this clip from the Industry Focus: Consumer Goods podcast, analyst Vincent Shen and Fool contributor John Rosevear talk about where investors might want to look to get into the nascent on-demand ride-hailing space. Find out why you shouldn't try to pin down an IPO time for either Uber or Lyft, what to focus on to see where they're going, and why it's best to just keep watching for a while.
A transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on June 7, 2016.
Vincent Shen: Tying this all together, I think some of our listeners are curious, like, "OK, these sound like interesting businesses, really incredible growth rates, big opportunity overall. Where is the investing angle?" I have to say that, at the time, right now, there is quite a bit of uncertainty.
Overall, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has indicated that an IPO, if it were to happen, is still quite a long ways off, and they've generally been quite vague on timing. Lyft is in a similarly uncertain state regarding its IPO, especially considering both companies' very heavy spending and losses.
Some people have pinned a potential Uber IPO to the end of this year. I think that is calling it maybe a little too early. I think, if anything, listeners should take away generally, just the scale and the growth behind these opportunities, and the fact that they've had an opportunity to start making an impact outside of their core space with these partnerships with the auto industry, for example, but then also some of these expansions with Wal-Mart and with things like UberEATS, and delivery, and UberRUSH, for small-business or enterprise courier services.
It's interesting, at this point, I think it's too early to tell. These companies are so young -- six, seven years for Uber and then just four or five years for Lyft -- that they have an opportunity, I think, to still disrupt in a lot of different businesses and industries going forward, and it will just be a really fun, fun sector to watch. If there's anything else that you wanted to add, John...
John Rosevear: Yeah, I just wanted to add a note about the timing of a maybe IPO. Uber just in the last couple of weeks got a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's public investment fund. Women, of course, are not allowed to have driver's licenses in Saudi Arabia, so the idea is that Uber will come in and give women rides so that they can get around.
That says two things. First of all, Uber is having to go farther and farther afield for capital. I mean, they're long past the point where any of the Silicon Valley funding options are going to jump in there. They've already long since had investments from venture cap companies like Benchmark and Kleiner Perkins and some of the other ones you mentioned.
Shen: Of course.
Rosevear: They've got mutual fund investments, Fidelity is in, Wellington Management, which runs some of the active Vanguard funds and so forth, they're in. They got a small investment from Toyota, but that's more of a... that's very different from GM's (NYSE:GM) investment in Lyft. I think Toyota is just putting a finger in the pie, or a toe in the water, perhaps, to see how this works.
Again, back to the point of the IPO, they're having to go farther and farther afield for capital it seems, but they're finding capital. Likewise Lyft, which is a much smaller company and has taken in much less capital, I mean, they got $500 million from General Motors in January. I think Lyft's valuation is said to be about $5.5 billion in the round with General Motors, whereas Uber's valuation is at $62.5 billion.
They are, in fact, the highest valued of all of the unicorns. They're a megacorn, even. The question is, I think part of the question is, given that the IPO market has cooled off considerably in the last several months, can they go public at anything close to that? If not, what does that mean for their investors who are already on board and who invested at these really wild valuations?
Shen: Yeah, absolutely, and especially, I feel like the IPO market overall has cooled to some of these tech unicorns that you've mentioned. The fact that they were able to raise that $3.5 billion from that Saudi fund means they're probably not that hungry for capital, even though they need it with their expansion plans.