SoftBank tender for Uber stake succeeds at discounted price: WSJ

SoftBank tender for Uber stake succeeds: WSJ
December 28, 2017
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December 28, 2017
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(Reuters) – A consortium led by SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) will buy a more than 15 percent stake in Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] after existing investors in the ride services company agreed to sell shares at a price that values the startup at $48 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The price is at a 30 percent discount to the most recent valuation of $68 billion, but changes the way the board oversees the company, which is dealing with sexual harassment allegations, federal criminal probes and other issues.

Uber and SoftBank declined to comment on results of the tender, which expired at noon (2000 GMT) on Thursday. The companies said they would issue a statement on the outcome of the tender offer later on Thursday. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters the tender was expected to be successful.

SoftBank’s investment is a sign of support from an influential investor for new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi. It will trigger governance changes including expanding Uber’s board from 11 to 17 members, limiting some early shareholders’ voting power and cutting the control wielded by former chief executive Travis Kalanick.

The SoftBank consortium had agreed to buy at least an additional $1 billion of new stock at the older, higher valuation if it went ahead with the tender, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters in November.

Uber investors and employees tendered shares equal to about 20 percent of the company, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. ( SoftBank probably will limit its purchase in the tender offer to 15 percent of Uber, and other members of its group are likely to buy additional shares.

Rajeev Misra, chief executive of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, a tech investment vehicle, will be nominated to the Uber board, the Journal reported. A second member of SoftBank is expected to join the board as part of the terms of the deal.

“The stockholders did the smart thing. The price is less important than locking in the governance changes and securing the support of the world’s most powerful technology investor,” said Erik Gordon an entrepreneurship expert at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“If the stockholders hadn’t taken the price, the value of the company would have been battered by a return to stockholder infighting and the possibility of Kalanick’s return,” he said.

Uber’s legal tangles include a lawsuit by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving car unit Waymo that alleges trade-secrets theft and federal investigations that span possible bribery of foreign officials in Asian countries and the use of software to evade regulators.

A former employee’s charges of endemic sexual harassment led to an internal review, London has said it is stripping Uber of its license and recently Uber announced it had covered up a major hack.

In June, Kalanick was forced to step down, although he remains on the board and maintains one of the largest stakes.

Reporting by Heather Somerville and Liana B. Baker in San Francisco. Additional reporting by by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru. Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Richard Chang and Susan Thomas