Hi all, it’s Eric.
Uber board member Arianna Huffington said on Oct. 16 that the Uber-SoftBank deal would be done “very likely within the next week.” So if I told you now, nearly three weeks later, that the deal could very likely wrap up today, or early next week at the latest, how much should you believe me? The deal is not done until there’s an agreement on all the terms and we’re not there yet. But it seems close and it’s very hard to believe the deal falls apart despite occasional dire proclamations.
Lately, the negotiations haven’t so much been between SoftBank and Uber as Benchmark and Travis Kalanick. In an 11th-hour ploy, Kalanick asked Benchmark to pause its lawsuit against him in exchange for letting the board have majority approval over his three seats. (Eventually, Benchmark is supposed to drop the case, but only if a chain of dominoes falls just right.)
Benchmark has agreed to drop the case after Uber’s governance reforms go into effect, as part of the SoftBank deal. That means that in the interim the case against Kalanick continues. In response to Kalanick’s demand, Benchmark has said that he can have the unilateral power to fill the three board seats he controls; however, in exchange Benchmark should be allowed to continue to pursue its fraud claims in court to their conclusion.
Besides the Kalanick-Benchmark negotiations, the terms are pretty much set. Common shareholders and preferred shareholders will receive the same price for their shares. There won’t be any financial incentive to sell shares earlier in the process or for selling a larger number of shares. Sellers won’t be allowed to collude, meaning that they can’t discuss whether they are selling shares at a given price or not.
SoftBank will have multiple opportunities to find a price. If its first offer doesn’t attract enough sellers, it can try again at a higher price. That could push the price up if enough Uber investors hold out in the first round.
Besides SoftBank, Dragoneer and General Atlantic, I’ve learned that TPG, Tencent and Tiger Global may also buy shares depending on the price, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
After the deal gets signed, Uber will publish an advertisement announcing the deal in a few major newspapers. The price is set after the deal is signed but obviously before anyone has to offer up the shares. Uber insiders expect the price to have an implied valuation of at least $50 billion, but SoftBank could have other ideas.
As Uber was working on the SoftBank deal, its biggest rival Lyft announced a major investment.
Alphabet, already a major backer of Uber through its venture arm, is leading a $1 billion financing round in Lyft, the ride-hailing company said at the time. The headline of its Oct. 19 blog post reads, “Alphabet’s CapitalG Leads $1 Billion Round in Lyft.” The post declares that the company now has a post-money valuation of $11 billion. (That’s the $10 billion pre-money valuation plus a new $1 billion in capital.)
All that apparently wasn’t supposed to mean that Lyft had actually raised $1 billion. No, in fact, it’s still finishing up the process which could take weeks more. It’s not clear who else is investing. Alphabet ponied up $500 million in Lyft, according to two sources.
The round remains open. It’s an unusual situation and it’s hard to understand why Lyft decided to announce $1 billion when it had closed about $500 million.