By Heather Somerville
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Lyft Inc inched closer to becoming the first ride-hailing company to make a stock market debut by releasing its filing for an initial public offering on Friday, revealing to the public a detailed look at its financial performance.
Fast-growing but money-losing Lyft expects to be valued at up to $25 billion in its IPO, sources have said. It is now all but certain to go public before larger but also unprofitable rival Uber Technologies Inc in a test of how investors value the ride-hailing industry.
The 220-page document provides a picture of a company with high growth and improving economics but widening losses.
Lyft now has nearly 40 percent of the U.S. ride-sharing market, but warned further growth could come at the expense of yet more losses for a company already deep in the red, according to the filing.
The company has managed to grab market share from better-funded Uber, but the filing failed to provide answers to how it will sustain growth or achieve profitability.
"We will see how they perform as they have to start filing quarterly and managing shareholder expectations," said Alex Castelli, managing partner of emerging markets for advisory and accounting firm CohnReznick.
"Can you achieve the growth expectations? Can you continue to grow at the rate that you've been growing? That's going to be the real measurement stick over time."
Lyft's revenue was $2.16 billion for 2018, double the previous year and up 528 percent from $343 million in 2016.
Gross bookings, or the total value of the rides Lyft sells before driver pay is deducted, reached $8.05 billion last year, 76 percent above the prior year and 323 percent above 2016.
But Lyft posted a loss of $911 million for 2018, which climbed from $688 million in 2017 and $682 million in 2016, according to the filing.
Losses could mount, Lyft cautioned, as it continues to invest and eye a broader international expansion. And even now, seven years after it launched, Lyft subsidizes rides to attract passengers and offers bonuses to enlist drivers.
Still, Lyft has improved its contribution margin to 43 percent in 2018 from 38 percent in 2017, a sign the business is getting more efficient.
Uber in 2018 lost $1.8 billion before taxes, depreciation and other expenses. Its revenue for the year was $11.3 billion and ride bookings were $50 billion. Unlike Lyft, Uber for the last few quarters has shared selected financial data with the public.
Lyft's IPO is being led by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG and Jefferies Financial Group Inc.
San Francisco-based Lyft is positioned to become the first IPO from a group of highly valued, venture-backed companies including Pinterest and Slack expected go public this year.
Lyft expects to be valued at between $20 billion and $25 billion, up from its current $15 billion valuation, sources have told Reuters. Lyft plans to launch its two-week roadshow to pitch potential investors the week of March 18, setting up the company for an early April debut.
At a $25 billion valuation, Lyft would be trading at nearly 12 times its annual revenue. The same multiple would suggest a roughly $135 billion valuation for Uber, whose IPO is likely still several weeks out.
Both Lyft and Uber filed confidentially for an IPO with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in December, a process that gives privately held companies more time to keep their financials secret and reduce their exposure to market fluctuations.
Companies must release the formal version of the filing before their roadshow.
Lyft has been eager to emphasize its growth to investors over its total revenue. Lyft said that as of December it held 39 percent of the U.S. ride-hailing market, up from 22 percent at the end of 2016.
The company had 30.7 million riders and 1.9 million drivers in more than 300 U.S. and Canadian cities last year.
Lyft earned on average $36.04 from each of its 18.6 million active riders during the fourth quarter, a 32 percent increase in earnings and 47 percent increase in riders over the same period in 2017.
REVENUE FROM BIKES, SCOOTERS NOT MATERIAL
Lyft does not expect to make much in the near future on its expansion into bike and scooter renting.
Both Uber and Lyft have invested heavily in bikes and scooters as alternatives to car rides for short trips, hopeful that a transportation option that does not involve paying drivers will prove profitable.
But Lyft's acquisition of bike-sharing company Motivate for $250.9 million last year is not expected to materially increase revenue in the short term. Revenue from Lyft's scooter business was also not material.
The company's IPO includes a dual-class stock structure, with one class of shareholders getting 20 votes per share and another getting just one vote per share.
Dual-class share structures are increasingly common among technology companies, although Uber got rid of its dual-class stock as part of a broader governance reform.
Lyft will offer cash bonuses of up to $10,000 to some of its most active drivers with the option to purchase shares in the IPO, a bid to improve relations with drivers. Reuters reported the plan on Thursday.
Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer each own about 1.2 million shares. The company's largest shareholder is Rakuten Inc, a Japanese internet company that invested in Lyft in 2015 and made several subsequent investments, and owns a more than 13 percent stake.
As a private company, Lyft raised nearly $5 billion from investors. Other top shareholders include General Motors Co and Fidelity Investments, with just under 8 percent stakes each; venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which owns more than 6 percent; and Alphabet Inc, with more than 5 percent of shares.
(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)