Lyft's stock slump signals beginning of bumpy ride - InfoNews

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Lyft's stock slump signals beginning of bumpy ride

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Lyft logo is installed on a Lyft driver's car in Pittsburgh. Lyft’s stock fell 10 percent in trading Monday, April 1, 2019, just one day after the company went public. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
April 02, 2019 - 2:26 PM

NEW YORK - When Lyft made its hotly anticipated debut on the public market, its stock jumped 21% to $87.24 a share, up from its offering price of $72.

Flash forward two days later and its stock has fallen below the IPO price and languished at around $68, leaving some scratching their heads about what happened.

It was investors' first chance to buy into the ride-hailing phenomenon, where customers could flag a ride with a few taps on a smartphone, and drivers could earn money using their own vehicles.

There hasn't been any bad news released by the company since its IPO, and investors don't know a whole lot more about Lyft's financial picture than they did when the stock began trading on Friday.

"A volatile stock price is just part of the game for an IPO," said Rohit Kulkarni, senior vice-president of research at Forge. "This roller coaster ride will probably continue."

The stock price fluctuations were probably driven by short-term trading, and could continue for the next six months until the company has gone through two cycles of releasing earnings reports and the lockup period for institutional investors expires, Kulkarni said.

Despite the fluctuations, early investors who got in before the IPO are still doing well because shares were priced at around $47 during the last funding round, said Alejandro Ortiz, research analyst at SharesPost.

Other high-profile companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Snap had strong initial trading days but then saw their stock prices fall substantially in the subsequent months.

Facebook opened at $38 in 2012 and fell below $20 within three months. But now the stock is quadruple its offering price. Twitter began trading in 2013 at $26 and rose 73% on its first day but dropped as low as $14 in 2016. Now it trades around $33.

As for Lyft, "it is a little disheartening that's its happening very quickly," said Daniel Morgan, vice-president of Synovus Trust Company. "Usually it takes some time for some bad news to come out."

Lyft's main rival, Uber, is expected to go public in the coming months, but the company is different enough that it's unlikely to be affected by Lyft's price fluctuations, analysts said. Unlike Lyft, Uber has diversified into services such as food delivery and freight, and has expanded internationally while Lyft is primarily operating in the U.S. and Canada.

Whether Uber or Lyft can become profitable remains a nagging issue. Both have been growing quickly, but at a cost as both have discounted rides to gain market share. Last quarter, Uber lost $865 million while Lyft lost $249 million.

The initial enthusiasm over Lyft's stock could have been the result of its early investors doing everything they could to get their money out, said Stephen Beck, managing partner of cg42, a management consulting firm, who has serious doubts that Lyft or Uber can become profitable.

"It makes all the sense of the world to be a customer of Lyft, and it makes no sense in the world to be an investor in Lyft," Beck said.

Analysts are reluctant to draw major conclusions after just a few days of trading. However, they said that if there's a prolonged slump, that could have an impact on how investors view other companies about to go public.

Cross Research put a "buy" rating on Lyft stock Tuesday morning, but "we also warn people that it's not going to be an easy ride," said Steven Fox, managing director at Cross Research.

"Let's see what our first quarter looks like before we jump the gun that this is a very bad sign for the stock," he said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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