Based on how two high-profile initial public offerings have done lately, Uber might be better off pitching itself as a delivery service for plant-based food via Uber Eats instead of a company that takes passengers from point A to point B.
Uber rival Lyft (LYFT), reported its first results as a public company after the closing bell Tuesday, has been an unmitigated flop on Wall Street so far. The stock is currently trading at about $61 — more than 15% below its IPO price.
Contrast that to Beyond Meat (BYND), the buzzy maker of vegan burgers that went public last week and has more than tripled from its IPO price.
Beyond Meat isn’t the only unicorn that’s had a successful offering. Photo sharing site Pinterest (PINS) has gained more than 50% from its IPO price while video conferencing company Zoom (ZM) and cloud computing firm PagerDuty (PD) have more than doubled.
But Uber (UBER), which is set to debut on the NYSE Friday, isn’t likely to be compared to any of these companies. It will be looked at through the lens of Lyft — the Pepsi to Uber (UBER)’s Coke in the ridesharing business. And that may not be good news for Uber (UBER).
“Let’s not sugarcoat it, Lyft’s stock has been a head-scratching train wreck since the IPO,” wrote Wedbush analysts Daniel Ives and Ygal Arounian in a report last week.
Don’t judge an IPO by how it does in its first few months
Still, no matter what Uber’s stock does on Friday, it might be a mistake to write it (or Lyft or that matter) off for the long haul.
Just look at Facebook, for example.
The company’s shares famously plunged more than 50% from their IPO price in the first four months after their May 2012 IPO.
But Facebook (FB), despite its numerous privacy problems and other gaffes, has more than recovered from its early days growing pains and is now one of the most valuable companies on the planet with a market cap of nearly $550 billion.
With that in mind, Wedbush’s Ives and Arounian wrote in another recent report that they think Uber will wind up being the “Amazon (AMZN) of Transportation” and that the company could wind up one day being considered a tech stalwart mentioned in the same breath as the so-called FAANG stocks of Facebook, Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOGL) owner Alphabet.
Others are more concerned that the current crop of unicorn IPOs is reminiscent of the rush of dot-coms that went public in 1999 and 2000 just before the tech bubble burst, especially since many of them are losing gobs of money.
Profits matter – even for unicorns
Lyft reported a bigger than expected loss of $1.1 billion for the first quarter. That’s on top of a $910 million loss for all of 2018.
Uber is losing even more money, and several other unicorns set to make their debut later this year, such as WeWork and Slack, are bleeding red ink too.
Many of these tech companies may be rushing to go public now before a possible economic slowdown in 2020, noted Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager with Synovus Trust Company, in a recent report.
“Clearly their bankers have whispered in their ears, alerting them that the grass is high in public markets and now is the time to graze because a drought is coming,” Morgan said.
Google and Facebook were both profitable when they went public and that’s one of the reasons why they have been successful.
Uber and Lyft look a lot more like Snap (SNAP)chat parent Snap (SNAP), which has struggled since its IPO two years ago, than they do Google and Facebook.