Lyft falls as fears of price war with Uber overshadow strong forecast

By Yuvraj Malik

(Reuters) -Lyft signaled on Tuesday it would double down on competitive pricing to catch up with larger rival Uber, taking the shine off its strong earnings forecast and sending the company’s shares down nearly 7% in extended trading.

Under new CEO David Risher, Lyft has lowered ride fares and embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting drive to reduce Uber’s growing lead in the North American ride-share market.

But that strategy dragged down Lyft’s revenue per active user by 5% to $47.51 in the second quarter. The figure also missed estimates of $48.38, according to Visible Alpha.

“We really want to price competitively,” Risher said in an interview, days after rising fears of a price war slammed Uber shares and overshadowed the company’s positive results.

He added that rides receiving prime-time charge, or surge pricing, fell 35% sequentially in the second quarter, while the average per-mile fare was 10% lower from a year ago. That lower pricing, however, helped spur an 8.2% jump in the number of active riders on the platform to the highest in nearly three years, as Lyft also benefited from a travel rebound and more office commutes.

Third Bridge analyst Nicholas Cauley, however, said the company’s efforts to offer more competitive pricing could trigger higher driver incentives, affecting its profit target.

“The timeline for profitability could be extended as Lyft’s management is focused on winning back drivers and riders,” Cauley said.

For the third quarter ending September, Lyft expects revenue in the range of $1.13 billion to $1.15 billion, higher than estimates of $1.09 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

The company, which has promised profitability by 2023-end, forecast adjusted core earnings of $75 million to $85 million and a margin of 7%. Analysts were expecting $49.7 million.

Second-quarter revenue rose 3% to $1.02 billion, in line with estimates, while adjusted EBITDA of $41 million was well above expectations of $27.9 million. On an adjusted basis, it earned 16 cents per share, compared with a 1-cent loss estimate.

Lyft is planning to do away with prime-time pricing for a more flat structure and is expecting prices to remain at a similar level to the latest quarter.

“(Prime-time pricing) is a bad form of price raising,” Risher said on a post-earnings call. “It’s particularly bad because riders hate it with a fiery passion. And so we’re really trying to get rid of it.”

(Reporting by Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)