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Earnings Results: Lyft rides hit pandemic high, but stock falls on cautious forecast

Lyft Inc. said Tuesday that it met its goal of full-year positive Ebitda and that its fourth quarter was “solid,” but its outlook for the current quarter and possibly beyond weighed on its stock in after-hours trading.

Chief Financial Officer Elaine Paul, who joined the company last month, said on her first earnings call that although Lyft’s ride volume reached a pandemic high during the fourth quarter, she expects first-quarter volume to fall slightly because of the omicron variant’s effects on demand.

Based on demand trends in the fourth quarter, “prior to omicron, we were anticipating strong sequential ride-share ride growth in Q1,” Paul said. She also indicated that the second quarter might be affected by “the unknown pace of the recovery.”

Lyft LYFT, +5.37% shares fell as much as 6.5% after hours, after rising 5.4% in the regular session to close at $41.20. Its bigger competitor, Uber Technologies Inc. UBER, +2.13%, which is scheduled to report earnings Wednesday, also saw its stock fall about 1.5% in extended trading after closing more than 2% higher at $38.34.

Paul did add that she’s cautiously optimistic about the company’s full-year outlook, something Chief Executive Logan Green also mentioned on the call.

“The demand rebound is a matter of when, not if,” Green said. “We are getting better and better at managing these temporary COVID-related spikes, and this time around, driver supply has remained healthy.”

Lyft said total active drivers in the fourth quarter increased 34% year over year, and that new-driver activations rose 50%.

The company said it had adjusted Ebitda of $74.7 million, slightly beating analysts’ expectation of $74 million. It had 18.74 million active riders in the quarter, a 49.2% increase year over year but short of analysts’ expectations of 19 million riders.

Lyft’s revenue per rider was $51.79, above the $46.50 per rider analysts had expected. That was partly due to ride frequency and longer trips, Paul said on the call. In a further indication of a recovery, she said airport rides are now 9% of ride volume, just shy of 9.4% of volume in the pre-pandemic fourth quarter of 2019.

The ride-hailing company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $258.6 million, or 75 cents a share, compared with a loss of $458.2 million, or $1.43 a share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted for stock-based compensation and insurance-liability expenses, earnings were $32.1 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with an adjusted net loss of $185.3 million in the year-ago period. Revenue rose to $969.9 million from $569.9 million in the year-ago quarter.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast earnings of 8 cents a share on revenue of $941.4 million.

For the full year, the company reported a loss of $1.01 billion, or $3.02 a share, on revenue of $3.21 billion. That compares with a $1.75 billion loss the previous year. Analysts had expected an adjusted loss of 20 cents a share on revenue of $3.18 billion.

Lyft expects first-quarter revenue in the range of $800 million to $850 million, a decline from the previous quarter. The company expects adjusted Ebitda of between $5 million and $15 million, compared with $75 million in the fourth quarter. Analysts had forecast earnings of 7 cents a share on revenue of $980.3 million.

Shares of Lyft have fallen 4.35% so far this year, while the S&P 500 Index SPX, +0.84% has decreased 5.25%.

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