Lyft offers lackluster profit goal, forecasts more driver spending, shares sink 27%

FILE PHOTO: The Lyft Driver Hub is seen in Los
FILE PHOTO: The Lyft Driver Hub is seen in Los Angeles

(Reuters) -Lyft Inc on Tuesday gave lackluster targets for operating earnings due to its need to spend more heavily to attract drivers back to its platform, sending shares plummeting.

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The ride-hailing company forecast second-quarter revenue and adjusted operating earnings below Wall Street expectations, causing its shares to sink 27% after-hours. Shares of rival Uber Technologies Inc fell 5%. Uber, which was expected to report its own results after market close on Wednesday, moved up the announcement to Wednesday morning following Lyft’s stock plunge.

D.A. Davidson analyst Tom White said the stock sell-off was driven by Lyft’s second-quarter guidance, which was impacted by elevated investments in driver acquisitions and marketing costs.

“It will be very interesting to see if Uber feels the need to similarly ramp investments … or if Lyft is unique in struggling to bring back and retain drivers for some reason,” White said.

Lyft said the driver incentives were necessary to serve the increase in demand it anticipates this year, particularly on the U.S. West Coast which has so far lagged other U.S. regions in recovery.

Lyft said it expected adjusted EBITDA, a metric that excludes stock-based compensation and some other costs, of between $10 million and $20 million in the second quarter. That is significantly below the $54.8 million it reported on Tuesday for the first three months of the year.

Lyft executives declined to provide cost details for driver incentives in response to questions from analysts on a call following publication of quarterly results. One executive said Lyft would use higher prices to help finance some spending on drivers.

The number of drivers, many of whom left as demand dwindled during the pandemic, remained below pre-pandemic levels and a full recovery of driver supply was taking longer than Lyft had hoped, President John Zimmer said in an interview with Reuters.

Lyft and Uber have tried to lure back drivers with added incentives in recent quarters.

Lyft also forecast second-quarter revenue of $950 million to $1 billion, shy of the average analyst estimate of $1.02 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

First-quarter active ridership dropped 4.8% from the previous quarter in the first three months of the year.

Active riders were 17.8 million, down from 18.7 million in the previous quarter and up from 13.5 million a year earlier. Ridership is typically lower in the first quarter with demand for ride-hail, bike and scooter trips declining during the colder months.

But consumers eager for post-pandemic normalcy shrugged off higher prices, Zimmer told Reuters.

“That tailwind coming out of the pandemic is much more impactful to our business … than is the impact of inflation,” Zimmer said.

Drivers have also been burdened with surging fuel costs brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting some to stop driving or drive less.

Lyft and Uber have instituted a temporary fuel surcharge in an effort to help drivers.


Lyft reported first-quarter revenue of $875.6 million, beating average analysts’ expectations for $846 million, according to Refinitiv data.

At $54.8 million, adjusted EBITDA significantly surpassed its own guidance and analyst expectations. Analysts had expected $17.8 million in adjusted EBITDA after Lyft guided for a top range of $15 million.

Lyft executives have repeatedly talked about the company’s pricing power, a trend Zimmer expects to continue even as consumers face wider price increases for goods and services across the economy.

Lyft’s chief financial officer, Elaine Paul, said on Tuesday that concerns over inflation were not impacting the company’s revenue guidance.

Average U.S. per-ride prices for Lyft and Uber were 37% higher in March than during the same month in 2019, according to research company YipitData.

Zimmer said demand overall still remained 30% below pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of 2019, giving the company “quite a bit of headroom.”

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, TexasEditing by Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis)