One of the remarkable developments that came about due to the coronavirus is the picture of contrast. In February, the biggest concern when sizing up ride-sharing competitors Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) and Uber (NYSE:UBER) was the viability of their profitability strategies. At the time, I argued that Lyft’s rational strategy, along with their far more palatable work culture, could help distinguish LYFT stock.
Now? I’m wondering whether either company can make it to the other end.
Assuming that the pandemic doesn’t kill off both competitors, suddenly, UBER appears more appealing than LYFT stock. Initially, individual cities or communities mandated stay-at-home protocols. But last week, California set a remarkable precedent, requesting residents statewide to essentially self-quarantine. The only exception was for tasks deemed essential, such as grocery shopping or seeking medical care.
Quickly, the state of New York followed suit. As CNN reported, several other states have issued similar orders. At time of writing, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, which will last for the next two weeks.
Of course, I realize that these states have their residents’ health in mind. But one can’t help but wonder the impact it will have on LYFT stock. With commerce driven to a halt, ride sharing has become pointless.
But in this disastrous scenario, Uber’s aggressive efforts to expand beyond its core business has mitigated some of the damage. For instance, in many if not all states, governments allow food-delivery services to operate.
Naturally, Lyft recognized this abrupt vulnerability. Thus, the company is now expanding its own services to include food and medical supply deliveries to compromised communities. But is this move enough to save LYFT stock?
LYFT Stock Is in a Bind
From a humanitarian perspective, I really appreciate what Lyft is doing for many “voiceless” Americans. When schools started closing due to the pandemic, it left many children unexpectedly without food security. As well, members of elderly communities are simply not able to fend for themselves, especially when people act like idiots.
Additionally, both Lyft and Uber have offered 14 days of paid sick leave for those either sickened or quarantined. Unfortunately, feel-good stories may not be enough to help LYFT stock in this pronounced period of crisis.
While I’d love to give a better prognosis for LYFT stock and the ride-sharing industry, the nearer-term picture is awful. Furthermore, I’m not sure how great the longer-term narrative is. Yes, I’m still a strong believer in ride sharing and its underlying technology. Admittedly, I was generally bullish on both companies.
But when James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, stated that unemployment could hit 30% in the second quarter – the worst such figure in history – that changes the narrative. Honestly, you’d have to be mentally ill not to have that forecast utterly disrupt your outlook.
Right now, whatever horrific forecast is out there has at least some semblance of reality. Let’s have a reality check: we’ve never shut down entire states to deal with a crisis, let alone economic powerhouses like California and New York. At least in the modern era, we’re very much walking on unprecedented territory.
And with millions possibly filing for unemployment benefits soon, what will this look like for LYFT stock? I think I speak for all of us that we should expect volatility. After all, cutting out ride sharing is the easiest of all sacrifices.
Who Would Want to Drive Now?
I’m assuming that people are still ride sharing. For now, this represents a meager hope for those that depend on this industry to make a living. But over time, you’ve got to wonder if the drivers themselves don’t abandon ship.
Logically, ride sharing is prominent in the big cities of California, New York and Massachusetts, all of which are quarantined. By law, that means people who are using transportation are doing so for essential purposes. By deduction, then, some of those who are requesting rides could be sick.
In my opinion, this is a serious headwind. Back in early February when the situation was far different, CNBC reported that many drivers discriminated against riders of Asian descent. Now that the coronavirus is here and wreaking havoc, I believe drivers will reach a breaking point: is the generally paltry pay worth their health and possibly life?
If the overpaid morons in Washington can get together to help the American people for once in their sorry, pathetic existence, then it’s honestly better for drivers to just stay home. And that doesn’t do any good for LYFT stock nor the ride-sharing industry.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.