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Uber value slips below $70 billion after slumping in rocky debut

Uber Technologies fell in its trading debut.

Uber Technologies Inc. fell in its trading debut, leaving the company's market value below its last private funding round.

Shares of the ride-hailing giant closed at $41.57, well under their IPO price of $45, for a market capitalization of $69.7 billion.

The stock extended losses into the close even as U.S. equities stabilized on renewed optimism that an all-out trade war can be averted, even after the U.S. decision to slap fresh tariffs on Chinese goods overnight.

Uber last raised money from Toyota Motor Corp. in August at a valuation of about $76 billion.

Uber sold 180 million shares for $45 each Thursday, after marketing them for $44 to $50 apiece. Even at the low end of the price range, Uber's listing was the ninth-largest U.S. IPO of all time and the biggest on a U.S. exchange since Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s $25 billion global record holder in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In distributing the stock, Uber prioritized shareholders — particularly institutional investors — that it thinks will hold on to the shares for a long time.

"We found a set of investors who are long-term oriented, that believe in our vision," Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said in an interview from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. "Now we have to execute to make sure that the bet that they made on us is a great bet."

A market value of less than $75 billion is a considerable climb down from earlier projections: Last year, bankers jockeying to lead the offering told Uber it could be valued at as much as $120 billion in an IPO. The trading debut will be closely watched by the cavalcade of other tech startups that are expected to go public this year, including Slack Technologies, Postmates, Peloton Interactive and WeWork Cos.

Shares are trading under the ticker UBER. Morgan Stanley (MS), Goldman Sachs Group (GS) and Bank of America led the listing.

"Uber's opening trade shows investors aren't willing to pay a premium valuation yet for the ride-sharing company's ability to sustain a high top-line growth" said Mandeep Singh, a senior technology analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

This year, widely expected to be the busiest for mega U.S. tech listings this century, got off to a rocky start as a partial government shutdown shuttered the agency that approves IPO documents for 35 days, all but killing activity in the first quarter. After submitting its confidential filing in December, Uber — along with Lyft and a host of other hopefuls — was left sitting on the sidelines while U.S. stocks enjoyed the best start to a year in at least a decade.

Like many of the IPO class of 2019, including Lyft and Pinterest, Uber is unprofitable. The San Francisco-based company lost $3.04 billion last year on an operating basis on revenue of $11.3 billion, bringing total operating losses over the past three years to more than $10 billion, according to filings.

Mr. Khosrowshahi said that while profitability was a priority for the company, public market investors should be judging Uber by a different metric once it starts reporting quarterly earnings

"The most important sort of statistic to look at is bookings, because that reflects essentially what people are paying for the service," he said.