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Rakuten Takes Subsequent Hit On Lyft Stake

Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani

image: Seng YAM/PriceMinister on Flickr

Rakuten, the largest shareholder in Lyft, has said it expects to record a $947 million loss on its stake in the ride-hailing company in the latest quarter. This is atop an earlier 24.8 billion yen ($227 million) write-down by the company on its Lyft stake, driven by a tumble of the ride-hailing company's stock price from an all-time high of $88.60 to currently [as of writing] around $41. Lyft is locked in a cash-burning price war with its larger rival Uber in the U.S., a situation that has led to high spend to retain customers which has in turn led to substantial losses.

In the third quarter of this year, Lyft booked $956 million in revenue, up 63% year-over-year, but with losses of $463.5 million, of which $241.6 million was due to stock-based compensation and $86.6 million due to changes to liabilities for insurance. On the whole, Lyft spent $1.4 billion in the third quarter of this year, more than the revenue it pulled in. Just like Lyft, Uber is also spending more than it pulls in, having just posted $1.2 billion in Q3 losses on $3.8 billion in revenue.

Rakuten got to be Lyft's biggest shareholder thanks to an early bet on the company. The Japanese e-commerce giant led a $530 million Series E in 2015 that valued Lyft at $2.5 billion, and also participated in subsequent rounds. Its investments amounted to a 13% stake as at when Lyft went public in March. Rakuten recorded $990 million in paper gains from its Lyft investment in April, one month after the company went public. But with Lyft's stock down more than 50% from its all-time high, it's no surprise the company has recorded subsequent sizable losses.

Lyft isn't the only company Rakuten has backed. The Japanese company drew eyeballs when it led a $100 million investment in Pinterest that valued it at $1.5 billion in 2012  With Pinterest having gone public in April and with a current valuation (as of writing) hovering around $11 billion, it seems safe to say Rakuten booked a sizable profit on its investment. Other notable companies Rakuten has backed include Cabify, Careem (acquired by Uber), Carousell, Glovo, Upstart, Kreditech and Gojek.


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