33.17 +1.49 (4.70%)
After hours: 7:59PM EDT
|Bid||32.91 x 1400|
|Ask||33.15 x 1300|
|Day's range||31.50 - 33.01|
|52-week range||14.56 - 68.33|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||N/A|
|PE ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings date||05 Aug 2020 - 10 Aug 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y target est||40.95|
There are hundreds of stocks that would have to more than double to revisit their 52-week highs. Let's check out three out-of-favor stocks that are ready to prove the naysayers wrong.
(Bloomberg) -- Ron Parise has spent about 50 hours a week for the last two years on the roads of Cape Coral, Florida, shuttling tourists and snowbirds between their rentals and the airport for Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. All that came to a sudden stop in late March, when the arrivals gates went quiet and Parise’s wife insisted he stay home to avoid exposing himself to the coronavirus.Parise, 73, used his newfound free time to apply for any public assistance program for which he thought he might qualify. Nothing came through until early this month, when he received $11,500. It’s a small-business loan forgivable under certain conditions, part of the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to encourage companies to keep paying employees during the pandemic. Parise believes he qualifies because he owns a one-man business to support his job driving.The state of Florida initially told Parise he wasn’t eligible for unemployment insurance, but he recently began receiving checks under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which gives relief to independent contractors who have been impacted by the pandemic. This created an ethical dilemma for Parise, and perhaps a legal one, too. The small-business money is supposed to keep bosses like Parise from laying off workers— in this case, just Parise. Unemployment benefits are intended for people who have lost their jobs. “I don’t want to seem like I’m double dipping,” he said. “I’m happy to stay home and collect the government money if I can.” Parise said he hasn’t decided what to do but is leaning toward taking taking both and paying back the loan before it comes due in two years.While Uber considers its drivers to be independent contractors, some like Parise set up small businesses to manage their income from driving. The designation helps minimize personal and tax liabilities and for Parise, validates his status as an entrepreneur in his own right. “I’m more of an independent business person,” he said. “I hire Uber to send me customers.”Deciphering the rules around the government’s financial-assistance programs is a widespread challenge, and ride-hailing drivers face a particularly complicated route. The pandemic has left most of them unable to find enough work to get by. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft haven’t altered their stance that drivers are independent contractors, not employees, disqualifying them from unemployment insurance in most states. The companies have directed drivers toward at least three alternatives, including the two Parise applied for.Congress created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to help provide financial relief to workers normally ineligible for unemployment benefits, and Uber successfully lobbied for its drivers to be included. States manage the federally funded program, and implementation has been patchy at best. Many drivers have yet to receive money or even confirmation they’ll get it eventually, said Harry Campbell, who runs a popular website for drivers called the Rideshare Guy. “Some people are getting unemployment,” he said. “Some aren’t.”The financial-aid programs for small businesses have been similarly inconsistent. Tied up in the practical questions of where drivers can turn for help is an unresolved fight over whether Uber and Lyft’s workers should be considered employees of the companies. Many drivers, along with labor groups and Democratic public officials, have said the companies are cheating drivers out of benefits and offloading the costs onto taxpayers. “They are using the moment to crystallize the fact that, in their view, these workers should not have the benefit of employee status,” said Brian Chen, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. Ride-hailing companies oppose efforts by drivers to access traditional unemployment benefits from states, which are financed through payroll taxes. Uber and Lyft are contesting a California law intended to classify workers like their drivers as employees, and the state recently sued them in response. Most drivers, said Chen, would receive more generous benefits from state programs, an assertion Uber contests. “Congress fully funded pandemic unemployment assistance for gig workers so that every state, many of which face historic deficits, could give these workers immediate financial support at no cost to their own state funds,” said Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for Uber.Lyft and Uber would have been on the hook for $413 million in unemployment insurance costs over the last five years in California alone, according to a study published this month by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research and Labor. A similar analysis by officials in New Jersey said Uber would have faced a bill of $530 million for unemployment and disability from 2014 to 2018. Tally up the 48 other states, and you’re looking at a significant additional cost for two companies that have never been profitable.“I don’t want to seem like I’m double dipping”New York courts have ruled multiple times in favor of Uber drivers seeking unemployment benefits in the last year, but only after a lengthy process that’s onerous for both applicants and the state, said Nicole Salk, a senior staff attorney with Legal Services NYC who has represented several drivers in such cases. “It causes problems for the whole system.” she said.On Monday, four drivers for Uber and Lyft and a worker advocacy group sued Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Labor Department in federal court, claiming the state failed to pay unemployment benefits promptly. Jack Sterne, a spokesman for the governor, said New York is ahead of other states in its response to the jobs crisis and is processing more than 100,000 applications a week for the federal unemployment program. “During this pandemic emergency, we have been moving heaven and earth to get every single unemployed New Yorker their benefits as quickly as possible—including Uber and Lyft drivers who are treated no different than any other worker,” Sterne wrote in an emailed statement.Amara Sanogo, a driver in the Bronx, is living off his credit cards and helping his three children with their Zoom video curriculum as he waits for a response from the state about whether he qualifies for benefits. When he applied nearly two months ago, Sanogo set up an online account on a state website and was told he’d get updates there. “Every day I check that account,” he said. “There are no more messages.” New York’s Labor Department is now advising gig economy workers to apply to the federal program instead of the state’s.For drivers who set up a business to manage their Uber income, there are signs of significant interest in the small-business programs. Ron Walter, a driver in the Denver area who primarily works for Uber and Grubhub Inc., wrote a blog post about his experience applying for a PPP loan, which companies don’t need to pay back as long as they keep paying employees and adhere to other guidelines. Walter’s blog post contained a link encouraging other drivers to apply through a website called Womply.com, which charges lenders a commission for sending them leads. Dozens of drivers clicked through the link and filled out applications, according to data Walter received from Womply that was reviewed by Bloomberg.Walter got a loan of $4,800 and anticipates he’ll have to pay it back. He didn’t apply for other government programs, he said, because it didn’t feel right. Since Walter mostly delivers food, he said he’s actually doing pretty well. He can squeeze more deliveries into every hour and gets paid more. “Traffic is a lot better, and parking is a lot better because everybody is staying home,” he said. But as the economy worsens, Walter worries demand is not going to last. At some point, he said, “people run out of money.”(Updates with lawsuit in the 12th paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
As COVID-19 continues to transform our economic reality, two megatrends are converging to create a once in a lifetime investment opportunity
"The next time you open the app things are going to look a little different for both riders and drivers,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on Wednesday.
Lyft, Inc. (“Lyft”) (LYFT) today announced the pricing of $650 million aggregate principal amount of Convertible Senior Notes due 2025 (the “notes”) in a private offering (the “offering”) to persons reasonably believed to be qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). Lyft also granted the initial purchasers of the notes a 13-day option to purchase up to an additional $97.5 million aggregate principal amount of the notes. The sale of the notes to the initial purchasers is expected to settle on May 15, 2020, subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to result in approximately $637.5 million in net proceeds to Lyft after deducting the initial purchasers’ discount and estimated offering expenses payable by Lyft (assuming no exercise of the initial purchasers’ option to purchase additional notes).
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc.’s offer to buy Grubhub Inc. antagonized officials in Washington and major U.S. cities, who were already taking steps to limit the fees companies charge restaurants and regulate their treatment of workers. If a deal between the two companies proceeds, analysts said it’s likely to face antitrust scrutiny.David Cicilline, a U.S. representative from Rhode Island who heads the House antitrust subcommittee, said the proposed deal underscores the urgency for a moratorium on most mergers, an idea supported by other Democrats. “Uber is a notoriously predatory company that has long denied its drivers a living wage. Its attempt to acquire Grubhub—which has a history of exploiting local restaurants through deceptive tactics and extortionate fees—marks a new low in pandemic profiteering,” Cicilline said in a statement.In San Francisco and Seattle, officials recently set limits on delivery fees, and Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles are among cities that have mulled similar measures. New York is set to vote Wednesday on restrictions that would bar companies from charging restaurants delivery fees of more than 15% and impose other limits. Such regulations are meant to protect restaurants and customers who are driving a surge in delivery orders while at home during the coronavirus pandemic.“Many small businesses and customers rely on these services, and we’ve seen that the fees, either on restaurants or on customers, can spike to unacceptable levels and without competition there’s less to limit their ability to price gouge,” said Matt Haney, who sits on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and has criticized Uber for its delivery fees.Uber said it’s focused on driver safety and helping support independent, local restaurants struggling from effects of the virus. “Regulating the commissions that fund our marketplace—particularly during these unprecedented times—would force us to radically alter the way we do business, set a far-reaching precedent in a highly competitive market, and could ultimately hurt those that we’re trying to help the most: customers, small businesses and delivery people,” the company said in a statement.Food delivery tie-ups are complicated. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, many of the operations were unprofitable as they fought for market share. In New York alone, at least a dozen food delivery services compete for customers who are increasingly ordering from multiple platforms. Grubhub, the oldest of the major apps, had been forced to burn cash to play defense against upstarts like DoorDash Inc., the U.S. market leader, and Uber. Investors saw the prospect for consolidation as a way to help limit losses, but inflated private valuations and the risk of antitrust review presented hurdles to dealmaking.Then Covid-19 hit. Uber has had to reassure investors that it has enough cash to survive the year and pushed its goal of making an adjusted profit out to 2021. It also told 3,700 employees that they were losing their jobs, information many of them reportedly received over a Zoom call. Grubhub withdrew its financial guidance last month.Profits are elusive in the food delivery business. Uber’s adjusted revenue for food delivery more than doubled in the first three months of the year, according to the company’s latest financial report. But even with that massive increase in sales, the loss from food delivery actually increased by 1% in the period to $313 million. And that’s before the full brunt of the pandemic took hold in the U.S.Meanwhile, these companies face calls from officials to improve conditions for their gig economy workers. California’s attorney general sued Uber and rival Lyft Inc. last week, alleging they’re in violation of a state law designed to give their workers the benefits of employees. A loss in that case could set an important precedent that increases costs for these companies and raises further questions about their ability to be profitable.Persistent losses in the industry are why mergers seemed likely to many analysts and investors. In March, DoorDash accounted for 42% of the U.S. meal delivery market, according to research firm Second Measure. Grubhub had 28% and Uber 20%. “We’ve long believed that consolidation in online food delivery is inevitable,” Tom White, an analyst at D.A. Davidson, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.But the current economic conditions increase the likelihood of drawing the attention of antitrust regulators, White wrote, especially “given the impact any deal could have on a restaurant industry that is struggling to survive in the face of the pandemic.”Restaurant advocates also said they were worried about the potential consequences of a deal. “It’s extremely concerning,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a group that represents restaurants in New York. Grubhub and its Seamless division already dominate the city, Rigie said, “and they use their leverage and market share at the expense of local restaurants.”Bradley Tusk, an early Uber adviser who has since sold his stake in the company, said if the policies cities are considering take hold long term, “it may be that consolidation is the only way to have a couple of market players that can survive at all.” Otherwise, food delivery could end up looking like the costly ride-hailing rivalry between Uber and Lyft, Tusk said. (Tusk also ran the 2009 mayoral campaign of Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg’s parent company, Bloomberg LP.) “Uber should have found a way to buy or kill Lyft a lot earlier,” Tusk said. “The unit economics of ride sharing would be a lot easier if they had and I think they’re trying to learn that lesson now with the acquisition of Grubhub.”(Updates with background on worker rights issues in the ninth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
In this episode of MarketFoolery, Chris Hill chats with Motley Fool analyst Bill Barker about the latest earning releases. They first look at digital transactions and how they are growing as people move away from cash.
Lyft, Inc. (“Lyft”) (LYFT) today announced its intention to offer, subject to market conditions and other factors, $650 million aggregate principal amount of Convertible Senior Notes due 2025 (the “notes”) in a private offering (the “offering”) to persons reasonably believed to be qualified institutional buyers pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). Lyft also expects to grant the initial purchasers of the notes a 13-day option to purchase up to an additional $97.5 million aggregate principal amount of the notes. The notes will be senior, unsecured obligations of Lyft, and interest will be payable semi-annually in arrears.
Hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers are staging a caravan protest at Uber's San Francisco headquarters to demand Uber comply with gig worker protections law AB-5, pay into the state's unemployment insurance fund and drop the ballot initiative it proposed along with Lyft and DoorDash that aims to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors. "Uber, Lyft and other gig companies are continuing in the same path of abusing and completely taking advantage of workers while putting them at risk," rideshare driver and organizer with Gig Workers Rising Edan Alva told TechCrunch.
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. drew a warm response from Wall Street after the San Francisco-based firm posted its first-ever decline in rides, but said business is already starting to recover.Analysts particularly noted the resilience of Uber’s food delivery operation, which mitigated the impact from the drop in passenger rides. Further diversification is seen as possible, with Citigroup considering partnerships and Morgan Stanley identifying add-on opportunities such as grocery delivery.Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said Thursday ride-hailing sales have increased for each of the last three weeks and are on track to do so again this week. Uber shares rose as much as 7.7% to $33.30 in New York on Friday. The stock has now rebounded 116% from the record low hit on March 18.Rival ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. rose 22% following its results on Thursday, although analysts had mixed reactions to the numbers. The stock gained another 5.4% on Friday.Here’s a round up of analyst comments on Uber’s results:Piper Sandler, Alexander Potter(Neutral, price target cut to $33 from $39)Thanks to diversification, Uber’s revenue declines will be less severe than they otherwise would be if the company were a ride-hailing pure-play.We expect this trend to continue, and although Uber Eats remains less profitable than ride-hailing, we think the food delivery business could experience structural, permanent, and largely favorable changes due to Covid-19.KeyBanc, Edward Yruma(Overweight, price target $40)Similar to Lyft, rides are improving week-on-week, and this should accelerate as shelter in place begins to dissipate.Recovery will not be linear, but we believe that Uber is well positioned to emerge post-Covid-19 as the company has maintained driver supply and engagement with users through the Eats platform.Citi, Itay Michaeli(Buy)We believe a positive share price reaction is warranted as the first quarter delivered reassuring data points amid the current crisis, while supporting the case for a stronger overall network position.Looking ahead, one area we’re watching post the Uber Jump-Lime transaction is whether Uber might also consider pursuing a similar strategy with AVs (ATG), as this could have both strategic and financial implications.Morgan Stanley, Brian Nowak(Overweight, price target raised to $47 from $43)Importantly, Uber is addressing safety including masks, cleaning supplies, and technology integration to ensure people are wearing masks.Safety is likely to be an important competitive point for riders and drivers in a pre-Covid vaccine world.MKM Partners, Rohit Kulkarni(Buy, price target cut to $38 from $45)The key highlight from the conference call was two-fold: (1) During April, Uber has noticed week-on-week improvement in rides bookings while Eats bookings have accelerated; and (2) Covid-19 has pushed out Uber’s profitability by “quarters” instead of “years.”Uber’s market opportunity is clearly expanding (food delivery) while the company is sowing seeds into more growth segments.Related:Uber Leads $170 Million Investment in Lime Electric Scooters Lyft Shares Jump on Results But Analysts Warn of ‘Headfake’(Updates share moves in third and fourth paragraph, updates chart.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. said quarterly bookings from ride-hailing customers declined for the first time ever due to the effects of the coronavirus but that the business is already beginning to recover.The San Francisco-based company has never turned an adjusted quarterly profit and is unlikely to do so this year. Uber now expects to hit that milestone next year, thanks to cost cutting that will eliminate more than $1 billion in expenses, Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive officer, said on a conference call with analysts.The ride-hailing business was down about 80% in April, but Khosrowshahi said sales have increased for each of the last three weeks and are on track to do so again this week. “We believe the U.S. is off the bottom,” he said. Shares were up about 6% in extended trading Thursday.The problems last quarter for Uber’s rides business, and for most of the transportation industry, can be traced to the spread of the virus around the world. With the stock under pressure in the first quarter, Khosrowshahi sought to reassure investors on a conference call in March explaining the business would have a $4 billion cash cushion in a worst-case scenario.Uber is a major investor in Didi Chuxing, the largest ride-hailing operator in China, where the virus originated. By April, Uber withdrew its financial forecast for the year and said it would take a significant charge on investments, which totaled $2.1 billion. That drove a quarterly net loss of $2.94 billion, nearly triple the loss a year ago.However, Uber inched closer in the first quarter to its goal of generating an adjusted profit. The loss, excluding taxes, interest and other expenses, declined 30% from a year ago, to $612 million.Another bright spot was food delivery, which helped offset the drop in rides. Homebound customers drove a 52% increase in food delivery gross bookings to $4.68 billion in the first quarter. Gross bookings from rides, a measure of the total value of fares that’s closely watched by investors, dropped 5% to $10.9 billion. A year earlier, growth was more than 20%.“While our rides business has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, we have taken quick action to preserve the strength of our balance sheet,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Along with the surge in food delivery, we are encouraged by the early signs we are seeing in markets that are beginning to open back up.”During the past week, Uber has embarked on a blitz of cost-trimming moves. Uber said it will end food delivery operations in more than a half-dozen countries and that its Middle East unit Careem will terminate 31% of employees. On Wednesday, the company told employees it was cutting 14% of staff and indicated that more cost reductions would be conveyed in the next two weeks. Uber said Thursday it will transfer its bicycle and scooter business to another company, Lime, and invest more capital in the startup.To achieve the company’s revised profit plan, all departments will need to make reductions, Nelson Chai, the chief financial officer, said on the conference call Thursday. “There are no sacred cows,” he said.Even as Uber is hustling to cut costs and prepares to enforce a new policy requiring some drivers and passengers to wear face masks, a new threat has emerged. Its home state, California, sued Uber and its peer, Lyft Inc., this week alleging that they are violating a law enabling their drivers to reap employee benefits. If they lose the case, the companies face substantial new costs that will alter their business models in California and could embolden other governments to take similar actions. Uber has vowed to fight it in court and at voting booths with a ballot measure in November.(Updates with CFO comments in the penultimate paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The numbers encouraged Uber investors ahead of the ridesharing giant's earnings report that came out after hours today. Lyft posted 23% revenue growth to $955.7 million, well ahead of analyst expectations at $897.9 million, and narrowed its adjusted EBITDA loss from $216 million in the quarter a year ago to $85 million, surpassing the company's own guidance, which was provided before the pandemic started.
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. is leading an investment round of $170 million in scooter-rental company Lime, a lifeline for a startup reeling from plunging customer numbers and companywide layoffs.Alphabet Inc., GV and Bain Capital Ventures, along with other new and existing stakeholders, also participated, Lime said in a statement on Thursday. As part of the deal, Lime will acquire Uber’s Jump bike-sharing business operations and the two companies will expand the integration of their mobile apps.Lime also replaced its chief executive office, co-founder Brad Bao, with Wayne Ting, previously the company’s head of operations. Before joining Lime, Ting worked at Uber, including a stint as chief of staff for Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi.Ting’s elevation, along with the new investment, could bring Uber and Lime closer together. As the deal was being negotiated, Lime executives gave it the codename “Unity.” Uber was already an investor in Lime, but also ran its own competing micromobility operation. “Uber is exiting the market and really making a bet on Lime,” said Ting.With the new investment, Lime is valued at about $510 million, people familiar with the terms said, asking not to be identified because the terms are private. That’s a massive drop from the $2.4 billion investors priced the company at in a funding round last year. Lime didn’t comment on the valuation.Venture capitalists have invested more than $1 billion in the last few years in two startups renting electric scooters -- Lime and Bird -- but they began falling out of favor this year. First unprofitable business models fell out of fashion, and then the pandemic kept customers stuck at home. Both companies had to drastically reduce their fleets by mid-March.Read more: Scooter Companies Pull Out of Cities Worldwide Amid PandemicLime said in January it was cutting 14% of staff, about 100 employees, and retreating from a dozen markets in a drive toward profitability. In March it said it was “winding down or pausing” service in all markets but South Korea. And in April, further job cuts were announced. Ting said he doesn’t anticipate further terminations, in part because the infusion of capital will allow it to weather a situation that may prove to be daunting for the foreseeable future.Global self-isolation measures and government bans on travel had decimated Lime’s ability to generate revenue from the hundreds of thousands of scooters it has around the world. The company went from 147,000 scooter trips globally on March 14 to about 52,000 three days later as Europe went into lockdown.Scooter companies are also suffering from a sharp decline in transportation spending and a newfound aversion to the sharing economy. This combination of factors is also weighing heavily on Airbnb Inc., Lyft Inc. and Uber. Lyft said Wednesday that it’s cutting 17% of its workforce.But cities are also closing off streets to automobile traffic, a trend that micromobility advocates hope will become permanent. Lime has begun to operate in about two-dozen cities, though with smaller fleets and a focus on essential workers. Ting said that Lime expects to be profitable as soon as next year.Local officials “are signaling to the world that we need to look at new ways to move around,” he said. He anticipates commuters eventually flocking to forms of transportation that don’t require them to be in enclosed spaces with large crowds. “They’re looking for a socially-distanced, friendly way to move around the city.”(Updates with more information on Ting starting in third paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Uber's first quarter reflects Corporate America's growing turmoil as the COVID-19 pandemic ricochets across the global economy.
Lyft today announced a new health initiative that will require drivers and riders to wear face masks or coverings during rides. Additionally, Lyft says it will provide cleaning supplies and masks for drivers. Riders and drivers must all confirm they will cover their faces and not ride or drive with Lyft if they have COVID-19 or any symptoms.
Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT), the ride-hailing start-up that just laid off 17% of its workforce, is seeing demand for its core business begin to pick up again in April, albeit very slowly. In the first-quarter earnings results Lyft reported late Wednesday, revenue jumped 23% year over year. Lyft said that while rides were down 75% year over year in April, that figure appears to have hit a bottom in the second week of the month.
Shares of Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) were surging today after the ride-hailing company posted better-than-expected results in the first quarter, showing significant improvement on the bottom line, and as management reassured investors that the company should be able to manage through the pandemic. Despite a sharp decline in rides starting in mid-March, Lyft's revenue rose 23% to $955.7 million, easily beating estimates at $897.9 million. More impressive was Lyft's strong improvement further down the income statement as its adjusted EBITDA loss narrowed from $216 million to $85.2 million, which was better than the company's own guidance before the pandemic for a loss of $140 million to $145 million.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Too many U.S. companies are building empires on the backs of low-wage workers. It’s a mistake to let it continue. California, for one, is fighting back. It sued Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. in state court on Tuesday, contending that the ride-hailing companies violated a new state law by improperly designating drivers as independent contractors rather than employees to save on labor costs. The law in question is Assembly Bill 5, which requires companies to classify workers as employees unless they can establish that the work is outside the company’s usual course of business and that workers are free from the company’s control, among other factors. There’s a lot riding on the distinction. Employees are entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay and other benefits, whereas contractors are not. Multiply the difference in cost by millions of drivers and the savings add up to a huge competitive advantage. So it’s not surprising that Uber is doing everything possible to bolster the case that it’s not responsible for drivers. Since California enacted the law, Uber has experimented with letting drivers set their own fares to demonstrate their independence. Its chief lawyer even claimed that “drivers’ work is outside the usual course of Uber’s business.”Those efforts to disown drivers are laughable. Uber and Lyft are ride-hailing companies. Without drivers, there are no rides. Uber and Lyft also exert significant control over drivers, despite Uber’s assertion that it merely provides technology to “independent, third-party transportation providers.” The companies determine who has access to the technology. They dictate the kinds of cars drivers can use. They require vehicles to pass their detailed inspection. They impose an encyclopedia of terms and conditions on drivers concerning fares, tips and general conduct. Does that sound like technology or a boss? Aside from the fact that drivers are clearly employees by any reasonable application of California’s law, there are important public policy reasons why Uber and Lyft should be required to look after drivers. Labor is a big line item on many companies’ income statement. Those that neglect workers are able to undercut competitors, much the way Uber and Lyft are squeezing cab companies. And once they dispose of competition, it becomes difficult to dislodge them because they quickly amass market share and with it the power to dictate wages and discourage new entrants. What’s left is an industry with a small number of powerful firms in a sea of working poor.The retail industry is well on its way. Amazon.com Inc. accounts for 55% of the S&P 500 Retailing Index by market value. The second-biggest company in the index, Home Depot Inc., is a distant second at 14%, and the rest of the field is miles behind. Amazon’s hostile takeover of the retail industry wouldn’t have been possible without its army of low-wage workers. The median total compensation for U.S. full-time Amazon employees was $36,640 in 2019, according to the company, which is roughly half the amount realistically needed to raise a family in the most affordable towns in America. But good luck persuading Amazon to pay workers a living wage now that it has a firm grip on the retail industry. That’s a preview of life with Uber and Lyft if left unchecked.It’s not just drivers who have a stake in their employment status. If the question is left open, Uber and Lyft would have an incentive to relax oversight to fortify their position that drivers are independent. While it would undoubtedly give drivers more autonomy, it would also most likely mean loose standards for drivers’ qualifications, the reliability of their cars and the number of hours they can safely work in a day, all of which would endanger both riders and drivers. Some will say this isn’t the time to take on ride-hailing companies. Uber announced on Wednesday that it would eliminate 3,700 jobs in response to the coronavirus shutdown, with more cost cuts to come. Forcing ride-hailing companies to absorb additional labor costs could result in further job losses, but there are ways to help workers during this downturn without compromising their future. Fiscal stimulus can be used to bolster workers’ incomes in the near term while keeping the pressure on ride-hailing companies. Otherwise, the longer ride-hailing companies are permitted to shortchange drivers, the harder and more costly it will become to secure drivers a fair deal.And if giving drivers the protections afforded to employees would sink ride-hailing companies’ business model, as some contend, then investors would be wise to acknowledge that reality before they absorb further losses. Uber’s stock is down 38% since its initial public offering last year and Lyft’s stock is down 64%. I like cheap rides and free two-day delivery as much as anyone. But if we continue to let companies take over whole industries by abandoning workers, everyone will eventually be poorer for it. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Nir Kaissar is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the markets. He is the founder of Unison Advisors, an asset management firm. He has worked as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell and a consultant at Ernst & Young. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
As part of its expense management efforts, Uber had already implemented a hiring freeze in March as the coronavirus outbreak intensified and governments started to enforce stay-at-home orders and other lockdowns. Additionally, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has also agreed to forgo the rest of his base salary for the year in order to further reduce costs, effective May 2. In an internal memo obtained by CNBC, Khosrowshahi said the need for customer support is "down substantially" due to trip volumes plummeting, while the hiring freeze meant that recruiters have no work.
A glimpse at Lyft's stock price Wednesday, which soared as much as 16.77% after first-quarter earnings were reported, suggested all was well in the ride-hailing company's world. In this COVID 19-era, "well" is a relative term. Lyft's net losses did dramatically improve from the year-ago quarter (a loss of $398 million versus $1.1 billion in Q1 2019).