Lyft has filed paperwork for an initial public offering, promising to take investors on a ride to a transportation “revolution” but raising doubts about its ability to make a profit.
Lyft’s filing of a prospectus gives it a head start on arch-rival Uber in the ride-sharing companies’ race to go public.
“We are one of only two companies that have established a TaaS [transportation as a service] network at scale across the United States,” Lyft said. “This scale positions us to be a leader in the continued transportation revolution.”
According to the prospectus, Lyft’s share of the U.S. ride-hailing market jumped from 22% at the end of 2016 to 39% in December 2018. The company doubled its net revenue in 2018 to $2.2 billion but its net loss widened to $911 million from $687 million and $683 million in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
“We have a history of net losses and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future,” the prospectus said.
As CNN reports, a number of tech unicorns are expected to go public this year and “Lyft’s public market debut could prove to be a bellwether for how these companies will be received by investors. In particular, Lyft will almost certainly be viewed as a proxy for what to expect from its chief rival Uber, a much larger business.”
Founded in 2007, Lyft has presented itself as a genial alternative to Uber. Both companies have been investing in self-driving cars, electric scooters and bikes.
“We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to transportation-as-a-service,” Lyft said. “Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change.”
But the investments have been crimping Lyft’s bottom line, with total costs and expenses increasing 77% to $3.1 billion in 2018. The company’s cash and cash equivalents had shrunk to $518 million as of Dec. 31, 2018 from $1.1 billion a year earlier.
“It seems safe to say its current rate of spending is not sustainable, and that profitability remains a long way off,” Quartz said.