Lyft has taken a long-expected step toward going public. The ride-hailing service filed a confidential IPO proposal to the SEC Thursday.
The company said it has not yet made key decisions about the number of shares it will offer or the price of its stock. If market conditions are right, Lyft said it anticipates an IPO after the SEC competes a review process.
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Lyft's most recent round of private investments valued the company at $15 billion. Lyft said in June its most recent funding round, led by Fidelity, more than doubled the estimated value of the company from just 14 months earlier.
Lyft and competitor Uber are two of the largest and fastest growing privately-held companies in the country. Their IPOs have been anticipated for years.
Uber has plans to go public as well sometime in 2019. According to one report in the Wall Street Journal, Wall Street banks estimate Uber's IPO could fetch $120 million. Uber's most recent round of investments value it at $70 billion.
As a private company, Lyft has not disclosed its financial results. The 2012 JOBS Act allows companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue to start the IPO process without making public disclosures, although it will have to release results as it prepares to meet with investors to discuss the actual sale of shares, a process known as a "roadshow."
Uber has already started releasing its financial results despite being a private company. It lost $1.1 billion in the three months ending in September, on revenue of $3 billion.
The ride-hailing companies need to go public to build up capital while losses mount and they continue to develop expensive self-driving car technology. The potential to shake up the traditional global auto industry makes them both attractive to potential investors.
General Motors made a $500 million investment in Lyft in January 2016, when it was a much smaller company. Uber recently announced a $500 million investment from Toyota. Both of those automakers are announcing cost cuts to raise the cash they need to develop self-driving and electric cars and to compete with the ride-sharing services.
The market has been extremely volatile lately, making now a difficult time for IPOs. For example, Tencent Music, the leading music streaming service in China, recently announced plans for a US IPO to raise as much as $1.2 billion, but that was a fraction of the $2 billion it had earlier hoped to raise. And stocks are in the midst of their worst fourth quarter since the meltdown in financial markets a decade ago.
But the Lyft filing doesn't lock it into any specific timing if the market gets too rough. It just allows Lyft to get the process going so it's ready once it decides it is the right time for an offering.
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