WATCH: Uber's $120bn valuation

Uber is eyeing a valuation above $100bn for its much-anticipated share offering due in 2019, which would be the biggest-ever in the tech sector, sources familiar with the plan said on Tuesday.

The sources told AFP the global ridesharing giant is considering speeding up its plans for an initial public offering (IPO) to the first half of 2019, rather than the second half of the year.

Uber, which operates in over 60 countries, is already the largest of the venture-backed "unicorns" valued at more than $1bn, which until recently was considered rare without tapping stock markets. Its most recent investment - a $500m injection from Japanese auto giant Toyota - was made at a reported valuation of $72bn.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that bankers were proposing a valuation as high as $120bn for Uber, which has been a disruptive force in many cities where regulators and taxi operators have challenged its business model. Uber offered no comment on the IPO plans.

Sources told AFP the timing of the IPO will depend on market conditions and that Uber was in talks with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to be lead underwriters. The two firms declined comment.

Uber is due to make a market debut by the end of 2019 as part of an investment deal with Japan's SoftBank, which has a stake of some 15%.

Heated race

The ridesharing group last year hired a new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who has vowed to fix the company's work culture and business practices after a series of missteps and scandals over executive misconduct, a toxic work atmosphere and potentially unethical competitive practices.

Under Khosrowshahi, Uber has moved to boost transparency and become more accountable. Last month, it settle an investigation into a 2016 data breach with a payment of $148m, and earlier this year reached a settlement with former Google car unit Waymo over allegedly stolen trade secrets.

Uber reported a loss of $891m in the second quarter as revenues jumped 63% to $2.8bn, with bookings hitting $12bn.

As it expands its ridesharing services, Uber is also seeking to become a major player in autonomous cars, and has agreed to buy and adapt vehicles from Volvo to begin operating self-driving taxis.

Uber briefly suspended tests of self-driving cars in March following a fatal accident in Arizona. It resumed testing in Pennsylvania in July, but with a driver behind the wheel at all times, the company said.

If its valuation tops $100bn, Uber would be worth more than the combined value of the three big automakers General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Separately, Uber rival Lyft had selected JPMorgan Chase as the lead underwriter, a source told AFP.

The Wall Street Journal first reported JPMorgan had been chosen along with Credit Suisse and Jefferies Group for its IPO next year, which could value the company at some $15bn.

The two San Francisco firms have been in a heated race in the US market. Lyft has discussed international plans but so far has expanded only to a handful of cities in Canada.

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