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The Information recently reported that Uber was in acquisition talks with e-scooter companies Bird and Lime for "what could be a multibillion-dollar deal."

Big picture: The e-scooter companies are running low on cash, which means they either need to raise new money, get acquired or merge with one another. All options remain on the table, with the likely exception of Uber buying Bird, according to multiple sources.

Here's the rundown, in descending order of probability:

Uber buys Lime: This one has the most buzz, and also makes the most sense.

  • Uber already has a small equity stake in Lime and made its scooters available via its app in some cities. Kind of like what it did with Jump Bikes before buying it.
  • Lime employs some ex-Uber execs, including its former head of business and corporate development.
  • Lime would be cheaper than Bird, based on the latest VC valuations.
  • Uber still regrets not buying Lyft in the early days, and this would be a way to ensure history doesn't repeat itself.

Bird and Lime merge. Sources say such informal merger discussions have been off-and-on for quite some time, although they seem to be off at this exact moment (subject to change by lunchtime).

  • Consolidation came to ride hail and it also will come to scooter-share. A merger would let the two leading players avoid Uber or Lyft buying a smaller player and then making the duopoly into a competitive threesome.
  • Both companies desperately need to raise money, and this combo could elevate their fundraising firepower (albeit perhaps with some valuation pressures).
  • The big downside is that neither company really wants to give up pole position, and questions over which CEO would run the show.

Bird and Lime remain independent, after successfully raising new capital.

  • Bird has been meeting with prospective outside leads for a big new round, but many of its investors expect the ultimately round to be insider-led.
  • Lime is expected to have a bit of an easier time due to its lower valuation, but both seem to have already tapped a lot of the eager scooter money. This has always been a controversial business — particularly given its issues with weather, scooter theft/damage and regulation — so flat rounds wouldn't be shocking for either company.

Uber (or maybe Lyft) buys Bird.

  • Bird says on the record that it's not in talks for Uber and that it's not for sale. Just like every other startup, until the offer is too good to pass up.

The bottom line: Expect resolution fairly quickly, as the scooter companies need to settle their fundraising processes and Uber would want a quarter or two to digest the acquisition before its 2019 IPO.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.