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I finally got around to reading the prospectus for Lyft stock this morning.
The cover is a pretty pink slide that suggests that the company has a mission to improve people's lives with better transportation.
The next few pretty in pink pages outline the number of rides and drives the company has and how big the market for ride-sharing services is and how much revenue the company produced in the last year.
The first section is a prospectus summary that is a letter from management to potential shareholders outlining their vision of the future.
Lyft leadership tells us that "We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change. Our ridesharing marketplace connects drivers with riders, and we estimate it is available to over 95% of the U.S. population, as well as in select cities in Canada. In 2018, almost half of our riders reported that they use their cars less because of Lyft, and 22% reported that owning a car has become less important. As this evolution continues, we believe there is a massive opportunity for us to improve the lives of our riders by connecting them to more affordable and convenient transportation options."
Sounds pretty, doesn't it?
That's until you take a deeper look and see what financial troubles are hiding in plain sight behind those rose tinted glasses.
Follow The Dollar Signs, Not Some Magical Rainbow
To be as frank as I can ever be, I have one major problem with it all.
As I went through the document, my overriding thought was that the more I learned about the company, the less I would ever consider it as a long-term investment.
In short, it is pretty much a load of crap.
The company is simply not profitable.
In fact, on revenues of $2.2 billion, they managed to lose over $900 million.
Lest you think that the loss is from extensive R&D spending to grow the company from its current "Unicorn" status to the "Unicorn on a Magic Carpet" level, I will assure you that most of the loss is from existing operations.
R&D is an impressive $300 million, which leaves a loss from operations of more than $600 million.
There is a lot of talk about people giving up their cars and just using ride-sharing companies of their future transportation needs in the filing.
While that may be the case in dense urban areas, it severely underestimates the love of the average American for their car.
No one ever waited tables or bussed tables to save up for their first LYFT ride, but there are hundreds of thousands of teens asking if you want fries with that to put together enough scratch for their first ride as I type this.
I must confess that my wife and I use both Lyft and Uber.
I had never used it until I was out in Chicago to see the kids and go to the 2016 World Series.
When I was getting ready to call a cab to the airport, my son-in-law snatched the phone out of my hands and downloaded one of the apps.
Upon my return home, we discovered that when we were heading out to dinner using a ride-sharing service meant we didn't have to flip a coin to see who could have a cocktail before dinner and who could drink away.
Using Lyft or Uber means we don't have to worry about parking or traffic in the tourist areas where all the best dining spots can be found.
I tell you this to point out that I am not against the whole ride-sharing concept.
When we use them, we find that at times they are incredibly cost-effective and useful.
However, I am against owning companies that have negative stockholder equity, lose money, and have significant competition.
That's what we have with Lyft.
About the Author
Tim Melvin is an unlikely investment expert by any measure. Raised in the "projects" of Baltimore by a single mother, he never attended college and started out as a door-to-door vacuum salesman. But he knew the real money was in the stock market, so he set sights on investing - and by sheer force of determination, he eventually became a financial advisor to millionaires. Today, after 30 years of managing money for some of the wealthiest people in the world, he draws on his experience to help investors find "unreasonably good" bargain stocks, multiply profits, and build their nest eggs. Tim tirelessly works to find overlooked "hidden gems" in the stock market, drawing on the research of legendary investors like Benjamin Graham, Walter Schloss, and Marty Whitman. He has written and lectured extensively on the markets, with work appearing on Benzinga, Real Money, Daily Speculations, and more. He has published several books in the "Little Book of" Investment Series and a "Junior Chamber Course" geared towards young adults that teaches Graham's principles and techniques to a new generation of investors. Today, he serves as the Special Situations Strategist at Money Morning and the editor of Peak Yield Investor.