Aug 14, 2017

Uber ponders new investment as board battle rages

Sam Jayne / Axios

Uber's board of directors continues to engage in preliminary talks with three different investor groups, for a transaction that mostly would involve the purchase of shares from existing investors (a.k.a. secondary shares), according to The NY Times.

This comes after early investor Benchmark Capital sued former CEO Travis Kalanick to force him off the board of directors, another small group of shareholders called for Benchmark itself to sell its shares and the board itself begged for peace. On Monday afternoon, Benchmark explained its actions in a letter to Uber employees.

  • Players: One of the offers comes from Japan's SoftBank Group, while another is a pairing of Dragoneer Investments and existing Uber backer General Atlantic. A third was put together by the shareholder group that wants Benchmark out, and supposedly would buy those shares at the company's current valuation of approximately $70 billion, but no identities have yet been disclosed.
  • Breakdown: Deal talks are mostly for secondaries, but both SoftBank and Dragoneer's discounted offers would include a little bit of primary investment at the current valuation (read: help backers like Saudi PIF save face).
  • Hold them horses: Just because Uber's board is entertaining secondary offers (i.e., is willing to waive transfer restrictions), that doesn't mean it will necessarily ink a deal or find takers. Particularly at a discount, as sources on both sides of the divide say the company's core business continues to grow the top-line and shrink the loss line. Moreover, Benchmark could have added legal troubles from other Uber shareholders if it were to sell in any way that could increase Kalanick's influence. So could Uber if it tries forcing sales at a discount to the latest 409(a) valuation of $41 per share. In the end, this could just become insiders like Garrett Camp and Ryan Graves taking some money off the table, while the key combatants remain fully engaged.
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