Lyft hired an investment bank with a reputation for connecting tech companies with buyers, according to anonymous sources that spoke with the The Wall Street Journal. The bank, Qatalyst Partners LP, could be either helping Lyft raise another round of funding, or doing what it does best: helping to broker a sale.
According to the Journal, Frank Quattrone, the founder and executive chairman of Qatalyst, has reached out to auto makers and other companies about acquiring a stake in Lyft. Lyft received $1 billion in venture capital in January, half of which came from General Motors, and is valued at $5.5 billion. While the funding is impressive and ride-hailing companies are growing around the world, $5.5 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to Uber’s valuation of more than $60 billion.
It isn’t, however, just Uber versus Lyft — it’s Uber versus Lyft and all its friends. Lyft has partnerships with Southeast Asia’s ride-hail company Grab, as well as the Chinese ride-hail giant Didi Chuxing and India’s Ola. And Lyft is growing at home too. Lyft added Charleston and Richmond to its market just last week.
All of the acquisitions and investments set up an interesting question: Who would buy Lyft if it were for sale?
GM already invested $500 million in Lyft. The two companies have stood together in pushing for federal autonomous vehicle regulations, and GM offers a leasing service for Lyft drivers. The companies have even gone so far as to announce that driverless, electric Chevy Volts will be on streets in select cities for people to test out as early as 2017.
On GM’s side, the company gets a customer base that relies on its cars for a living. Additionally, a complete Lyft buyout would be beneficial if people stop buying cars as much and start using ride-hailing services to get around. GM also gets to test out self-driving cars on a public that isn’t entirely interested in buying autonomous vehicles outright in the first place through an “Autonomous On-Demand Network.”
In the past six months, GM has purchased autonomous vehicle company Cruise Automation for $1 billion, and a ride-share startup called Sidecar. The buyout of Lyft could make financial sense if it came to fruition.
Didi Chuxing and Lyft are already fighting against Uber on different fronts. The Chinese company is worth somewhere around the $10 billion range, and is, by some reports, ahead of Uber in the race to win China’s ride-hail market. But Uber is bumper to bumper, and has a plan to take China by 2017 — despite Apple’s $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing.
Didi Chuxing has the money, and it already has a partnership with Lyft. Growing even further, and getting a piece of the self-driving deal with GM, would improve the company’s standing against Uber on the national stage. As of now, Didi Chuxing is only in China. A full acquisition of Lyft could push Didi Chuxing ahead on a global scale.
It’s a stretch, but Apple’s $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing shows that the company is looking at the ride-hail market. Apple is also working on a not-so-secret car project called “Project Titan,” and it will most likely involve autonomous cars. If that is the case, Apple will be in a similar position as other major car manufacturers: fully working autonomous vehicles with no one to buy them.
That’s where a Lyft acquisition could come in. It would, of course, also mean dealing with GM’s investment into Lyft, but Apple is the second richest company in the world after Google. It has the money, and judging by how well Uber is doing, the ride-hail market is on the up and up and could turn out to be very valuable.