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Uber’s losses widen as SoftBank launches bid to buy shares

Uber’s quarterly gross bookings were US$9.7 billion, the FT reported. — Reuters picUber’s quarterly gross bookings were US$9.7 billion, the FT reported. — Reuters pic

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 29 — Uber Technologies Inc’s net loss widened to US$1.46 billion (RM5.9 billion) in the third quarter, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as the ride-hailing leader struggled to fend off competition, legal challenges and regulatory scrutiny.

The San Francisco-based company reported financials to shareholders as part of a formal bid yesterday night from a SoftBank Group Corp-led consortium looking to buy a large block of stock. SoftBank said in an emailed statement that at least two of Uber’s early backers intend to sell. The deal would value the business at US$48 billion, a 30 per cent discount to the last private valuation.

General Atlantic and Russia’s DST Global, which had both been in talks to buy stock, dropped out of the deal, said one person, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. The remaining bidders in the group are SoftBank, Dragoneer Investment Group, TPG, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Sequoia Capital, which are looking to buy at least 13.4 per cent of outstanding shares, said two people.

“SoftBank and Dragoneer have received indications from Benchmark, Menlo Ventures, and other early investors of their intent to sell shares in the tender offer,” a spokesman for SoftBank wrote. “Any sales by these shareholders will be pursuant to the same terms and conditions as will be offered to all other eligible holders that participate in the tender offer.”

Uber told stockholders that gross bookings, the key yardstick of demand for ride services, rose 11 per cent to US$9.71 billion in the period that ended in September, compared with US$8.74 billion in the second quarter, said the people. Net revenue grew 21 per cent to US$2.01 billion in the third quarter from US$1.66 billion.

But losses, which had been narrowing in previous quarters, reversed course. The net loss increased 38 per cent from the second quarter, when it was US$1.06 billion. Uber has been searching for a chief financial officer to fill a much-needed role ahead of an initial public offering expected in 2019.

Uber has had a rough year, with the ousting of its former chief executive officer, an exodus in the management ranks and last week’s disclosure of a concealed hack that exposed personal data of 57 million people. American rival Lyft Inc, meanwhile, is gaining market share. Uber was without a CEO for most of the third quarter—Travis Kalanick resigned under pressure from investors in June, and Dara Khosrowshahi joined in September.

The investor group, which hopes to snap up Uber shares on the cheap, offered to pay US$32.97 a share in their opening salvo, said people with knowledge of the matter. They may increase the bid or walk away if seller demand is insufficient. SoftBank has committed to invest at least another US$1 billion in Uber at a higher valuation of US$69 billion if the deal goes through. The blended valuation in the full deal would be US$54 billion, one person said.

The consortium of buyers have about four weeks to lock in enough investors at the current share price or to offer a higher price. The entire tender process is supposed to conclude by late February. — Bloomberg

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