Lyft, Racing Uber Toward I.P.O., Takes a Crucial Step


The ride-hailing company Lyft said on Thursday that it had taken a key step toward an initial public offering, confidentially filing a draft registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The move sets the stage for a busy year of technology initial public offerings in 2019, as privately held companies known as “unicorns” because of their high growth and valuations get ready to debut on Wall Street.

Uber, the biggest ride-hailing company in the world, is also planning to go public next year and has received proposals from investment banks that say it could be worth as much as $120 billion. The expected wave of tech public offerings is set to create huge windfalls for investors, tech executives and their employees.

Lyft said it had not yet determined how many shares would be sold or the price range for the offering, which is expected to come after the S.E.C. completes its review. That process could take more than a month. The company acknowledged in a statement that the timing of its public offering would be “subject to market and other conditions.”

Lyft’s last fund-raising round in June valued it at $15 billion. The company, which has been in something of a race to go public with Uber has picked JPMorgan Chase to take the lead on its offering. Lyft initially set its sights on spring 2019 for its offering, while Uber was considering later next year. Both companies have now accelerated their preparations.

If Lyft beats Uber to selling shares, it would be the first ride-hailing start-up to go public.

Lyft was founded in 2007 by Logan Green and John Zimmer. Initially called Zimride, the company focused on bringing together riders for long-distance car pools. In 2013, the pair switched their focus to short, taxi-like rides and changed the company’s name to Lyft.

Lyft’s investors include Fidelity; CapitalG, the venture arm of Google’s parent, Alphabet; and General Motors.

Lyft reported $1 billion in revenue in 2017, although analysts assume that Lyft, like Uber, has burned through large amounts of cash. Although Uber is not public, the company has reported its earnings and recently announced that it had lost $1.07 billion in its third quarter.

Although much smaller than Uber, Lyft has always been its toughest competitor in the United States and has largely avoided the kind of regulatory scrutiny and bad publicity that Uber has experienced around the world.

Both companies are working on self-driving vehicles and are also moving into bike and scooter rentals as a way to grow. In July, Lyft acquired Motivate, the owner of Citi Bike, which operates bike-sharing programs in New York and New Jersey, for a reported $250 million. Lyft completed the acquisition last month.

Reflecting on Lyft’s history in an interview when the deal closed, Mr. Zimmer said the focus in the first four to five years was simply surviving.

“Now we’re in such a strong place with our team, the resources and capital we need, we can actually be on offense,” he said. “This acquisition is an example.”

The deal also proved Lyft’s ability to work with regulators, Mr. Zimmer said, pointing to its work with New York officials on expanding the Citi Bike program to 40,000 bikes over the next five years.



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