Uber’s Stock Price Plunged After CEO Travis Kalanick Resigned
Uber is less valuable without Travis Kalanick as CEO than it was with him at the helm, according to some of the ride-hailing company’s biggest investors.
After T. Rowe Price wrote down the value of its Uber stock by 5% in May, other mutual funds slashed the valuation of their own stakes following Kalanick’s resignation in June, new disclosures show.
Vanguard, whose $7.5 billion U.S. Growth Fund owns shares in Uber, cut the value of its position by 15% in June, the first time the fund giant has marked down the taxi startup’s valuation in the three years it has owned it. The Hartford also lowered the value of its Uber stock by 15% in the three funds that hold it, as did the $2.8 billion Principal Global Multi-Strategy fund, which is overseen in part by Wellington Management.
It’s the first indication that Uber’s problems, from a sexual harassment scandal to an intellectual property lawsuit with Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, are taking a significant and widespread toll on its stock price. As a private company, Uber does not have publicly-traded shares on the stock market. It is therefore up to the mutual funds’ discretion to assign a so-called fair market value to the stock.
Another Principal fund, the $7.5 billion Principal LargeCap Growth I fund managed by T. Rowe Price, marked down its Uber stake by about another 8%, a total reduction of more than 12% since April. (T. Rowe Price itself does not report its fund holdings on a monthly basis, and has yet to release its filings for the second quarter ended June, but it likely took similar reductions on Uber stock across its funds, in accordance with its valuation policy.) Principal itself was responsible for marking down the Uber shares in its Global Multi-Strategy fund by 15%, a decision made by the firm’s own valuation committee.
While the markdowns do not necessarily reflect the going price for Uber stock on the private market, and were not universal among funds that own Uber, the consistency among at least three different firms, which cut the value of their shares by exactly the same amount (to about $41 a share), points to a prevailing view among institutional investors.
They come at a time when the only major changes at the company were Kalanick’s departure and a stated commitment to improve the company’s culture to eliminate harassment, an announcement that’s unlikely to negatively impact Uber’s stock price. In determining the fair market value of private stock, Vanguard, for its part, takes into account “offering price, financial performance of the company, the performance of comparable companies and corporate actions,” a spokesperson says.
The reductions also represent sizable paper losses for the funds. Between the Hartford Capital Appreciation fund, which has $8.5 billion in assets under management, and the $4.5 billion Hartford Growth Opportunities Fund, Uber accounted for more than $30 million in losses in June alone, according to the new disclosures (released at the end of the following month). Vanguard, meanwhile, which has a smaller position in the car-hailing company, took a loss of more than $10 million.
Still, not all Uber investors thought the company’s recent troubles and current lack of leadership warranted a valuation cut. Kalanick resigned June 21 under pressure from investors including Fidelity, but that mutual fund heavyweight made no changes to its Uber valuation that month. At Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen in July, investors at private equity firms TPG Capital and General Atlantic—both large shareholders of Uber—said neither of them had marked down their holdings amid the company’s turmoil.
Indeed, at least one big investor believes Uber shares have actually increased in value in the past few months. BlackRock (BLK), which does not report its portfolio holdings each month, disclosed in a recent quarterly filing that it marked up the value of its Uber stock by more than 8% in the three months ended May 31, the second time this year it has raised its valuation on the company. By BlackRock’s estimation, that puts Uber’s stock price at nearly $57 a share, though it’s possible that the asset manager was merely accounting for the rise in the overall stock market during the same period.
The Hartford Funds did not respond to a request for comment. Principal Funds said Wellington Management was responsible for the valuation decision.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect a response from Principal Funds, and to clarify that while Wellington Management made the decision to buy Uber stock, Principal’s own committee determined how to value the stake, and to mark it down in June. The article has also been amended to clarify that fund portfolio managers are not necessarily involved in valuation decisions, which are often made by independent committees.