April 28, 2017, 10:15 am
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Regulators criticize banks over Uber loan

Federal regulators criticized several Wall Street banks over the handling of a $1.15 billion loan they helped arrange for Uber Technologies Inc this past summer, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Led by Morgan Stanley the banks helped the ride-sharing network tap the leveraged loan market in July for the first time, persuading institutional investors to focus on its lofty valuation and established markets rather than its losses in countries such as China and India.

The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which are trying to reign in risky lending across Wall Street, took issue with the way in which the banks carved out Uber’s more mature operations from the rest of the business, the people said, declining to be named because talks with the regulators are private.

This so-called “ring-fencing” of certain markets makes companies appear a safer bet because it strips out the parts of their business that are loss-making.

Scrutiny of the Uber loan by regulators was not a surprise because it is rare for young, unprofitable technology firms to tap the leveraged loan market which is traditionally restricted to companies with long histories of generating cash.

Regulators have said that loans with more than six times leverage may receive a closer look.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc Barclays PLC and Citigroup also helped arranged Uber’s loan.

Representatives of the banks declined to comment. Uber was immediately not available to comment.

Representatives for the Federal Reserve and the OCC declined to comment.

Uber does not disclose its financials but Chief Executive Travis Kalanick has said that the company is profitable in its most developed markets in the United States and Europe. The company is losing money in regions such as China, where it has been locked in a battle with rival Didi Chuxing. Last August, Uber said it would sell its China operations to Didi.

Uber spends millions of dollars to attract riders and drivers and lost more than $800 million in the third quarter, according to Bloomberg.

But Uber proved a popular draw for investors because of their familiarity with its business and because it had recently closed a $3.5 billion round of financing from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, giving it a valuation of $62.5 billion, dwarfing that of blue-chip companies such as General Motors Company. - Reuters
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