Lyft said on Thursday it had confidentially filed a draft registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a public offering that could come early next year.
While the ride-hailing company is still much smaller than Uber, its earlier entry to the stock market ahead of other competing firms will give it a key advantage, according to a Wall Street Analyst.
“They will definitely get the benefit of the doubt, Santosh Rao, head of research at the merchant bank Manhattan Venture Partners, told Business Insider. “No one knows how to value these companies. Is it a software company? Is it a car company? Is it a service?”
Rao, who specializes in late-stage, pre-IPO company research, says the most accurate comparison is to platform companies, like Etsy or Alibaba. Based on these multiples, the firm estimates a fair value of Lyft to be between $19 billion and $20 billion.
Still, “no one knows the exact economics of it,” Rao admits. “There is a whole range of estimates out there. Some people estimate autonomous vehicles will totally revolutionize the benefit and make 70% of their costs go away, but that is still way out.”
Read more: Lyft officially files paperwork for an IPO
Both Uber and Lyft are deeply unprofitable, with quarterly losses for both companies in the hundreds of millions. (Uber self-reports some financials, while Lyft’s were reported by Bloomberg.)
This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. There are plenty of money-losing public companies. Tesla, for instance, recently turned a rare profit in its most recent quarterly earnings report, despite many years on public exchanges.
Now that the race to go public could be ending, the Uber versus Lyft battle could turn in to a race for profitability.
“I think the economics are much better [for Lyft],” said Rao. “The PR is better and profitability is much closer.”
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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