Lyft publicly files with the SEC for its IPO

The ride-hailing company is the first of many tech companies to kick off an IPO in 2019.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

Lyft is the first tech unicorn to head to the stock exchange in 2019. 

The ride-hailing company on Friday publicly filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for what could be as much as a $25 billion initial public offering. Lyft will list on the Nasdaq using the ticker symbol LYFT. Its IPO could come as soon as early April. 

Lyft said in the filing its aim is to "improve people's lives with the best transportation" and it "started a movement to revolutionize transportation" when it launched its ride-hailing service in 2012.

If all goes as planned, 2019 will be a year of tech IPOs. Companies including Airbnb, Pinterest, Palantir and Slack are also expected to issue initial public offerings, along with Lyft's rival Uber.

"Lyft became the first unicorn of 2019 to file its S-1 registration statement, indicating a strong start to the year for unicorn IPOs," said Rob Peters, senior director at SEC compliance analytics firm Intelligize.

When private companies go public it gives people a chance to learn more about previously undisclosed internal workings. In its filing, Lyft said it served 30.7 million riders in the US and Canada in 2018 and that it had 1.9 million drivers last year. It also handled more than 1 billion rides. 

As far as financials go, the company said it garnered $2.2 billion in revenue in 2018 on $8.1 billion in bookings, showing year-over-year growth of 103 percent in sales and 76 percent in bookings. However, it also lost $911.3 million in 2018, up from a net loss of $682.8 million in 2016 and $688.3 million in 2017.

The company said it's going after the $1.2 trillion that US consumers spend on personal transportation every year. "On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation. Yet, the average car is utilized only 5 percent of the time and remains parked and unused the other 95 percent."

Lyft is now available to 95 percent of the US population in more than 300 markets, the company said. It added that last year "almost half of our riders reported that they use their cars less because of Lyft, and 22 percent reported that owning a car has become less important" to them. The company said its active riders increased by 47 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

Lyft's service hinges on its contract drivers. The company said that since it was founded in 2012, it's paid drivers a total of $10 billion in earnings. As a bonus for those drivers in good standing, who've completed at least 10,000 rides as of the end of this month, Lyft said it'd pay drivers as much as $10,000. That money could be used to buy shares in the company at the IPO price. 

Lyft didn't return a request for comment.

First published March 1, 8:52 a.m. PT.
Update, 3:51 p.m.: Adds comment from Intelligize's Rob Peters.