Ride-hailing companies are new to the public markets, and analysts accustomed to comparing newly public companies to existing peers have expressed difficulty with the task.
And there are so many uncertain elements to consider. Lyft lost $911 million last year, and while that’s not uncommon for startups seeking to accelerate growth, its track record makes it difficult to assess future profitability and gauge what the company is actually worth.
Uber, meanwhile, estimated that it lost at least $1 billion in the first quarter of this year alone.
“In our view, valuation is the toughest task with LYFT,” said Michael Ward, a Seaport Global analyst, who has the sole “sell” rating on Wall Street.
“Most investors are familiar with the brand name and the service. In order to justify its current market valuation, investors need to take a big leap of faith that the millennials and later generations will forego ownership of a car and opt instead for reliance on a ridesharing service.”
At the same time, analysts are trying to navigate what kind of impact they think Uber will have when it finally begins trading.
“While our analysis of unit economics suggests profitability is possible (which we model to occur within seven years), the extremely competitive nature of the space and going up against an aggressive #1 player in Uber makes it tough to predict future customer acquisition costs as well as rider and driver retention,” Susquehanna analyst Shyam Patil wrote in a note to clients last week.