Lyft Inc. Shares Vaulted In Their Stock-Trading Debut Friday


Lyft Inc. Stock-Trading Debut Friday


.By Corrie Drietun.

Lyft Inc. shares vaulted in their stock-trading debut Friday, as investors gobbled up the first real public opportunity to buy into the future of ride hailing. The stock finished up 8.7% to $78.29 on the Nasdaq Stock Market after earlier gaining as much as 23%. When trading closed Friday, Lyft had a valuation of about $26.5 billion on a fully diluted basis.

Lyft priced its IPO at $72 a share late Thursday, The Wall Street Journal first reported. The IPO raised $2.34 billion, marking the first big tech debut of 2019 in a year that may break records for IPO dollars raised.

Investors had clamored for access to the company’s shares, leading Lyft’s underwriters to price the IPO well above their initial expectations and sell more shares than originally planned, with more than 20 times the demand for the stock than they could accommodate.

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It is a moment of success for a company that once struggled to secure access to private funding while racing its larger rival, Uber Technologies Inc., for market share and cash to fuel growth. Lyft’s pre-IPO investors are now sitting on massive gains.

Friday morning, surrounded by employees, drivers and their families, Lyft founders Logan Green and John Zimmer rang a Nasdaq bell at a former car dealership in downtown Los Angeles. The site, near the Staples Center, will soon become a Lyft drivers’ center. There, drivers will be able to get their cars maintained at discounted rates and receive help with other aspects of their business, such as taxes. The company plans to roll out more of the centers around the country in the coming months.

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People familiar with the deal said Lyft left little to chance in preparing for its debut, with its bankers and founders recognizing ride-sharing is an entirely new, complex category to explain to investors. In the months leading up to its roadshow, Lyft executives spent considerable time practicing potential investor questions with its lead bankers from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Credit Suisse Group AG , these people said.

The preparation paid off. Investors who attended the roadshow said they entered wary that the ride-hailing company posted a big financial loss in 2018, but Lyft’s co-founders succeeded in assuaging those fears, emphasizing that part of the reason was that they are making focused investments—such as with bikes and scooters—that they believe will pay off in the long term.

Among the founders’ other talking points with investors, according to a person who attended the roadshow: Even though Lyft is in the very early innings, it has made big market-share gains against its larger rival Uber; ride hailing accounts for a small percentage of total miles driven in the U.S., meaning there is a big opportunity for investors. And, unlike its larger rival, Lyft is focused on rides rather than branching into other businesses like meal delivery.

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The founders will have near-majority control over major decisions despite owning a small percentage of the company’s shares. At its closing price, Lyft had a market capitalization of about $22.4 billion.

Write to Corrie Drietun at corrie.drietun@smn.today

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