Investors were gored by some IPO unicorns last year, but some of the 2019 debutantes are starting to grow their bullish horns back. Uber (UBER -4.70%) is rolling in 2020, up 23% so far this month. It's a far cry from last year's slide, which found the shares closing out 2019 at more than a third below the $45 IPO price.
Analysts are starting to warm up to Uber as a market sentiment turnaround story in 2020, and on Friday it was Doug Anmuth at JPMorgan waxing bullish on the world's leading ridesharing platform. He sees Uber's leadership in both personal mobility and food delivery worldwide resulting in roughly $65 billion in gross bookings last year. Uber's bottom line has been a mess in the past, but he feels that rationalization in the stateside ride-hailing market and stability overseas will win out in the future. He's initiating coverage of Uber with an "overweight" rating. His $51 price target translates into 39% of upside off of Thursday's close, even after this young year's already heady run.
Going for a test drive
Uber and smaller rival Lyft (LYFT -5.35%) had rough debutante balls last year, but the two broken IPOs are the ones thumping the market in 2020. Investors are gravitating to the stocks, even as the two companies begin to pull back in some areas. Uber unloaded its problematic food-delivery platform in India earlier this month. Lyft announced a restructuring on Wednesday that included laying off a little less than 2% of its workforce.
Taking a step back may not be a good look on the surface, but Anmuth believes that rationality is finally starting to make itself known in this niche. Both Uber and Lyft appear to be scaling back on their discounting promotions and shifting their marketing efforts to loyalty products and subscription plans that will keep customers close. An industry that lost billions last year could be profitable on an adjusted basis as soon as next year with Uber leading the way.
Uber investors know that sentiment can turn on a dime. Over the past year we've seen buzz ahead of its springtime debut in 2019 sputter, only to shift back out of reverse through the first month of 2020. There will be plenty of ups and downs in 2020. We're already seeing potential potholes as it appeals to keep its license to operate in London amid safety concerns and grapples with new California regulatory changes that make it more challenging to succeed in the country's largest state. The negatives are offset by the positives. Uber's flagship personal mobility platform is closing in on profitability. The shakeout among food delivery apps will give Uber Eats and the thinning ranks of survivors more pricing flexibility. It's fair to say that investing in IPOs is riskier than buying stocks in more seasoned market-tested companies, but as long as Uber can swerve away from any negative headlines, the road ahead looks a lot more promising than the road it leaves behind.