Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) Q3 Sales Beat Estimates But Stock Drops

Full Report / November 08, 2023

Ride sharing service Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) reported Q3 FY2023 results exceeding Wall Street analysts' expectations, with revenue up 9.8% year on year to $1.16 billion. Turning to EPS, Lyft made a GAAP loss of $0.03 per share, improving from its loss of $1.18 per share in the same quarter last year.

Lyft (LYFT) Q3 FY2023 Highlights:

  • Revenue: $1.16 billion vs analyst estimates of $1.14 billion (1.3% beat, although Gross Bookings missed)
  • EPS: -$0.03 vs analyst estimates of -$0.18 ($0.15 beat)
  • Guidance for Q4 Gross Bookings: $3.65 billion at the midpoint missed expectations of roughly $3.95 billion
  • Free Cash Flow was -$30.01 million compared to -$112.1 million in the previous quarter (miss vs. expectations)
  • Gross Margin (GAAP): 44.3%, up from 34.5% in the same quarter last year
  • Active Riders: 22.4 million, up 2.09 million year on year (slight miss vs. expectations of 22.6 million)

Founded by Logan Green and John Zimmer as a long-distance intercity carpooling company Zimride, Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) operates a ridesharing network in the US and Canada.

Uber created the first ride hailing app, allowing users to summon black limousines via their mobile devices, an innovation that disrupted modern transportation. Lyft followed and expanded the service to the mass market, positioning it as a casual, friendly carpool experience that aimed to appeal to younger generations. Initially, Lyft’s drivers had a pink mustache affixed to the grill of their car, which has since been replaced by an “Amp” device, which lights up the car’s dashboard to help riders easily find their car.

The company’s value propositions are multiple. For individuals, Lyft effectively lowered the cost per mile for taxi transportation vs. legacy cabs, while providing ease of use and convenience. For drivers, it has provided flexible earning opportunities.

Gig Economy

The iPhone changed the world, ushering in the era of the “always-on” internet and “on-demand” services - anything someone could want is just a few taps away. Likewise, the gig economy sprang up in a similar fashion, with a proliferation of tech-enabled freelance labor marketplaces, which work hand and hand with many on demand services. Individuals can now work on demand too. What began with tech enabled platforms that aggregated riders and drivers has expanded over the past decade to include food delivery, groceries, and now even a plumber or graphic designer are all just a few taps away.

Lyft’s (NASDAQ: LYFT) main competitor in ride hailing is Uber (NYSE:UBER).

Sales Growth

Lyft's revenue growth over the last three years has been strong, averaging 27.7% annually. This quarter, Lyft beat analysts' estimates but reported mediocre 9.8% year-on-year revenue growth.

Lyft Total Revenue

Ahead of the earnings results, analysts covering the company were projecting sales to grow 9.4% over the next 12 months.

Usage Growth

As a gig economy marketplace, Lyft generates revenue growth by expanding the number of services on its platform (e.g. rides, deliveries, freelance jobs) and raising the commission fee from each service provided.

Over the last two years, Lyft's users, a key performance metric for the company, grew 17.7% annually to 22.4 million. This is solid growth for a consumer internet company.

Lyft Active Riders

In Q3, Lyft added 2.09 million users, translating into 10.3% year-on-year growth.

Revenue Per User

Average revenue per user (ARPU) is a critical metric to track for consumer internet businesses like Lyft because it measures how much the company earns in transaction fees from each user. This number also informs us about Lyft's take rate, which represents its pricing leverage over the ecosystem, or "cut" from each transaction. Lyft ARPU

Lyft's ARPU growth has been decent over the last two years, averaging 7.4%. The company's ability to increase prices while growing its users demonstrates the value of its platform. This quarter, ARPU declined 0.4% year on year to $51.68 per user.

Pricing Power

A company's gross profit margin has a major impact on its ability to extert pricing power, develop new products, and invest in marketing. These factors may ultimately determine the winner in a competitive market, making it a critical metric to track for the long-term investor. Lyft's gross profit margin, which tells us how much money the company gets to keep after covering the base cost of its products and services, came in at 44.3% this quarter, up 9.8 percentage points year on year.

For gig economy businesses like Lyft, these aforementioned costs typically include server hosting, customer support, and payment processing fees. Another cost of revenue could also be insurance to protect against liabilities arising from providing transportation, housing, or freelance work services. After paying for these expenses, Lyft had $0.44 for every $1 in revenue to invest in marketing, talent, and the development of new products and services.

Lyft Gross Margin (GAAP)

Lyft's gross margins have been trending up over the last 12 months, averaging 34.5%. This is a welcome development, as Lyft's margins are below the industry average, and rising margins could suggest improved demand and pricing power.

User Acquisition Efficiency

Unlike enterprise software that's typically sold by dedicated sales teams, consumer internet businesses like Lyft grow from a combination of product virality, paid advertisement, and incentives.

Lyft is efficient at acquiring new users, spending 32.8% of its gross profit on sales and marketing expenses over the last year. This level of efficiency indicates relatively solid competitive positioning, giving Lyft the freedom to invest its resources into new growth initiatives.

Profitability & Free Cash Flow

Investors frequently analyze operating income to understand a business's core profitability. Similar to operating income, adjusted EBITDA is the most common profitability metric for consumer internet companies because it removes various one-time or non-cash expenses, offering a more normalized view of a company's profit potential.

This quarter, Lyft's EBITDA came in at $92 million, resulting in a 7.9% margin. The company has also shown rather mediocre profitability for a consumer internet business over the last four quarters, with average EBITDA margins of -5.3%.

Lyft Adjusted EBITDA Margin

If you've followed StockStory for a while, you know that we emphasize free cash flow. Why, you ask? We believe that in the end, cash is king, and you can't use accounting profits to pay the bills. Lyft burned through $30.01 million in Q3,

Lyft Free Cash Flow

Lyft has burned through $329.1 million of cash over the last 12 months, resulting in an uninspiring negative 7.8% free cash flow margin. This low FCF margin stems from Lyft's capital intensive business model and desire to stay competitive.

Key Takeaways from Lyft's Q3 Results

With a market capitalization of $4.18 billion, Lyft is among smaller companies, but its more than $590.5 million in cash on hand and near break-even free cash flow margins puts it in a stable financial position.

Revenue narrowly outperformed Wall Street's estimates but Gross Bookings missed and Active Riders missed by a slight amount. With regards to forward guidance, Q4 Gross Bookings guided was below expectations, although Adjusted EBITDA guidance outperformed Wall Street estimates. Zooming out, we think this was a mixed, quarter. The Gross Bookings guidance could weigh heaviest on the stock. The market was likely expecting more, and the stock is down 6.1% after reporting, trading at $10.07 per share.

Is Now The Time?

When considering an investment in Lyft, investors should take into account its valuation and business qualities as well as what's happened in the latest quarter.

We cheer for everyone who's making the lives of others easier through technology, but in the case of Lyft, we'll be cheering from the sidelines. Its revenue growth has been good over the last three years. And while its user acquisition is efficient, the downside is that its gross margins make it extremely difficult to reach positive operating profits compared to other consumer internet businesses. On top of that, its operations are burning a modest amount of cash.

At the moment Lyft trades at 15.8x next 12 months EV/EBITDA. While we have no doubt one can find things to like about the company, and the price is not completely unreasonable, we think that at the moment there might be better opportunities in the market.

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