SoftBank Bids to Buy Uber Shares for 30% Less Than Current Value

SoftBank Group Corp. and a group of investors are trying to buy a stake in Uber Technologies Inc. at a sizable discount to the company’s $69 billion valuation, seeking to clinch what would be one of the largest purchases of stock in a private company.

 SoftBank and partners including investment firms Dragoneer Investment Group and General Atlantic are offering to spend more than $6 billion for a stake that would value the ride-hailing company at $48 billion, or about 30 percent lower than the valuation it fetched in its most recent round of fundraising, according to people familiar with the deal.

Locking in the investment from Japan’s SoftBank has been a top priority for new Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, who sees the deal as chance to close rifts and land a powerful new ally. Uber has had an abysmal year, with its co-founder and former CEO resigning under pressure and the company admitting it concealed a hack that exposed personal data of 57 million customers and drivers.

“SoftBank’s expectation that it can get shareholders to part with their shares at about $50 billion builds in all the negative news,” says Kirk Boodry, an analyst at New Street Research. “All of this over the past year has contributed to the downside.”

If it is successful, the SoftBank-led coalition would buy at least 14 percent of the shares from existing Uber investors. The purchase, along with an additional $1 billion direct investment in the company, would make the group one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the private terms. The SoftBank coalition will receive two board seats if the stock sale is completed.

The offer gives existing shareholders a way to sell equity and unlock some of the value that has been difficult to realize as long as the San Francisco-based company puts off an initial public offering. Khosrowshahi has said he expects to take Uber public by 2019. The tender offer is expected to start Tuesday, the people said. While a number of Uber investors have agreed to sell shares, this part of the process could last as many as 20 business days, according to the people.

An Uber spokesman declined to comment.

The expansion of the company’s board and other governance reforms have been attached to passage of the stock sale, upping the stakes. The deal isn’t done, however. Shareholders will need to sell at the $48 billion valuation. While SoftBank’s offer of about $33 a share is 30 percent less than Uber’s valuation at its most-recent fundraising round, the price would represent a significant windfall for many early investors. If shareholders don’t agree to sell in sufficient numbers, SoftBank can raise the price or walk away, the people said.

SoftBank shares fell less than 1 percent Tuesday in Tokyo trading. SoftBank is eyeing Uber shares after a rocky 2017: Besides the hack and resignation of former CEO Travis Kalanick, the ride-hailing company has lost ground against its biggest U.S. competitor and faces a high-profile lawsuit from Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet Inc.

SoftBank, led by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, raised $93 billion this year, the largest technology investment fund ever. He’s stepping up investments beyond his traditional wireless business with deals in e-commerce, robotics, semiconductors and satellites. SoftBank already holds stakes in China’s Didi Chuxing, India’s Ola and Southeast Asia’s Grab, three of the world’s largest ride-hailing companies after Uber.

A SoftBank deal with Uber may lead to mergers among the competitors in certain countries.

“It happened in China, it happened in Russia. In India and Southeast Asia, rationalizing the competitive environment makes sense,” says Boodry. “Going forward ride sharing in an environment without a lot of competitive pressure looks to be a pretty good business.”

Sources: Bloomberg, Pavel Alpeyev

Photo-credits: The financial express