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Lyft reports an adjusted profit as riders, drivers return; shares jump

By Tina Bellon and Nivedita Balu

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Lyft reports an adjusted profit as riders, drivers return; shares jump
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Lyft Driver Hub is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

By Tina Bellon and Nivedita Balu

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Lyft Inc on Tuesday reported an adjusted profit for the third quarter as a bruising year of pandemic-related cost cuts paid off and more drivers and riders returned to the company’s now leaner ride-hailing platform.

Shares rose 12.5% in extended trading after closing the regular session down 2.3%.

The Uber Technologies (NYSE:) Inc rival said consumers were traveling again after being homebound for more than a year in a sign of a broader U.S. economic recovery.

Rides to airports, which are among the most profitable routes, tripled from a year ago, Lyft (NASDAQ:) President John Zimmer told Reuters. Active riders overall rose 11% to 18.9 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

According to the California-based company’s own measure, Lyft was profitable for the second time in its nine-year history.

Lyft reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, a measure that excludes one-time costs, primarily stock-based compensation, of $67.3 million. The metric came in significantly ahead of a Wall Street estimate for $30.7 million, according to Refinitiv data.

Overall, Lyft’s third-quarter revenue rose about 73% on a yearly basis to $864.4 million, beating the Wall Street estimate of $862.68 million, according to Refinitv IBES data.

Revenue increased around 13% from last quarter, while total costs and expenses grew only 4% from the second quarter in a sign that Lyft is making do on its promise to cut both fixed and variable costs. Lyft’s contribution margin, indicating the company’s profitability excluding variable costs, rose to a record 59.4%.

Lyft’s net loss narrowed to $71.5 million, or 21 cents per share, from $459.5 million, or $1.46 per share last year, but Zimmer declined to say whether or when the company would target net profit.

The company posted surprise adjusted earnings per share of 5 cents in the quarter compared with a loss of 3 cents expected by Wall Street.

Uber, which will report results on Thursday after the bell, at the end of September said it expected adjusted EBITDA to break even in the third quarter for the first time.

Lyft said driver supply was up 45% compared with last year, but did not share how far off driver numbers remained from pre-pandemic levels.

Zimmer said in an interview with Reuters that drivers were feeling safer thanks to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and were returning to the road in greater numbers after enhanced federal unemployment payments ended in September.

“We’re seeing the right things happening in the market and will begin to taper incentives in the quarter ahead,” he said.

Lyft and Uber have been spending heavily to lure drivers with big incentives as the pandemic opened up new jobs at Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:)’s warehouses, Instacart’s grocery services and restaurant deliveries.

But Zimmer said most ride-hail drivers worked on the platform part-time as a way to supplement income from other jobs, enjoying the flexibility provided by gig work.

“I feel very good about the supply conditions, and our ability to compete in the marketplace for talent, given the type of work and earnings that we offer,” he said.

Stock Markets

Morgan Stanley: bear market rally to continue

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One of Wall Street’s best-known bears, Michael Wilson, thinks the S&P 500 will rise another 7% before turning down, so the bear market rally will continue for now, writes Market Watch.

After the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite joined their strongest weekly gains since at least May last Friday, Wilson, who is chief strategist and head of U.S. equity markets at Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), told clients that there could be another 5% to 7% before the downward trajectory of U.S. stocks resumes during the latest bear market recovery.

Wilson has held a bearish view of the stock market for about 2 years and correctly predicted a sell-off this year.

Wilson explained in a research note sent out to clients on Monday that a pullback in the 38-50% drop in the stock market this year “would not seem like something unnatural, not consistent with the previous bear market rally.”

While growth concerns have triggered a sell-off in commodities and lowered inflation expectations, the fact that the U.S. economy is already slowing and heading toward recession means that any market rally is likely to be short-lived, and U.S. stocks are likely to eventually fall.

Wilson mentioned in the note that the bear market is not over yet, although it may appear otherwise in the next few weeks as the market takes the rate cut as a sign that the Fed can still manage a “soft landing” and prevent a meaningful revision to earnings forecasts.

U.S. stocks rose last week as investors now hope the slowing economy and falling commodity prices may inspire the Fed to raise interest rates less sharply. Federal funds futures, a derivative used by investors to bet on the pace of the Fed’s monetary policy changes, estimate with a high probability that the Fed will be forced to start cutting interest rates again as soon as next summer.

They also consider the lower peak in the federal funds rate: it will peak around 3.5% at the end of 2022 instead of 3.75% just a couple of weeks ago. Wilson also pointed out the drop in Treasury yields: the 10-year Treasury bond yield went from 3.230% to a low of 3.07% on Friday before rebonding again on Monday.

Wilson expects the S&P 500 index to fall to around 3,400 points if the U.S. Federal Reserve manages to get a “soft landing” for the economy — which Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week would be “a very difficult thing to do.”

Wilson expects that if the U.S. economy plunges into recession, the S&P 500 index will fall to around 3,000 points. In any case, Wilson believes that U.S. stocks are still highly valued because the risk premium — that is, the measure of compensation that investors receive for the extra risk of owning stocks instead of bonds — remains about 300 basis points higher than the 10-year Treasury bond yield, which is considered a “risk-free rate.” 



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Easing chip shortages to help Volkswagen in H2 – CEO

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Volkswagen logo is pictured at the 2022 New York International Auto Show, in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., April 13, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen (ETR:VOWG_p) sees a strong second half of 2022 and expects progress in catching up with rival Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) as easing chip shortages start to offset supply chain bottlenecks and rising costs, the carmaker’s CEO said on Tuesday.

“We are earning more than ever,” Chief Executive Herbert Diess said at a works meeting, adding Volkswagen is ramping up electric vehicle volumes in its biggest markets in Germany and China thanks to easing semiconductor shortages.

This should allow the carmaker to narrow the Volkswagen-Tesla gap this year and meet its goal of becoming market leader by 2025 if it seizes the moment while the U.S. electric car maker burns cash on large investments, the CEO said.

“Elon (Musk) has to ramp up two highly complex factories in Austin and Gruenheide at the same time – as well as expand production in Shanghai. That’s going to take strength out of him,” Diess said.

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Stock Markets

Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani steps down as director of telecom arm

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, arrives to address the company’s annual general meeting in Mumbai, India July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani has stepped down as director of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the conglomerate’s telecom arm said on Tuesday.

Reliance Jio said https://refini.tv/3Nrs773 it has appointed Mukesh’s son and non-executive director Akash Ambani as the chairman of its board. Akash has been involved with the telecom unit since its launch in late 2016, where he started as a director.

India’s telecoms sector had been upended after the entry of Jio, which triggered a price war that forced some rivals out of the market and turned profits into losses.

Jio, which started out offering mobile teleservices, has been aggressively investing in services like internet broadband and forging ties with handset makers to launch low-cost smartphones and providing 5G services.

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