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Lyft reports first-ever full-year adjusted profit

Company reports Q4 2021 and FY2021 earnings

Ride-hailing platform Lyft announced its earnings for Q4 2021 and FY2021 after the bell on Tuesday, turning in its first-ever profitable year in terms of adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The company reported a figure of $92.9 million after a loss of more than $750,000 in 2020.

A sizable chunk of that profit came during Q4. Adjusted EBITDA for the fourth quarter of 2021 was $74.7 million, up from losses of $150 million in Q4 2020 and topping Lyft’s record-high gains of $67.3 million in Q3 2021. 

Also reaching record highs in the fourth quarter were Lyft’s contribution margin and revenue per active rider. Contribution (defined by Lyft as revenue less cost of revenue adjusted to exclude several metrics, such as amortization of intangible assets) for Q4 2021 was $578.8 million on a margin of 59.7%, up more than 4 percentage points year-over-year and surpassing the company’s outlook of 59%. Revenue per average rider reached $51.79, a 14.1% increase over Q4 2020.

“2021 was a big year. We strengthened our financial position and continued investing in exciting growth initiatives. I’m proud of the team for what we’ve accomplished together and I’m looking forward to building on our momentum,” said co-founder and CEO Logan Green. “We are also thrilled that Elaine Paul has joined our leadership team as our chief financial officer. She’s a perfect cultural fit and we will tap into her expertise scaling best-in-class disruptive businesses as we enter our next phase of growth.”

“We had a solid Q4 and achieved full-year revenue growth of 36 percent in 2021,” added Paul. “Revenue per active rider, contribution margin and adjusted EBITDA all reached new highs in the fourth quarter, driven by improving service levels and higher ride volumes in our marketplace. Despite short-term headwinds from omicron, we remain optimistic about full-year 2022.”

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Lyft’s (NASDAQ: LYFT) FY2021 revenue came in at $3.2 billion versus $2.4 billion in 2020, rising 36%. Of that, $969.9 million came in Q4, up from $569.9 million during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Fiscal year net loss, meanwhile, was an even $1 billion, an improvement on the company’s losses of $1.8 billion the previous fiscal year. Net loss for Q4 2021 accounted for $258.6 million compared to $458.2 million in Q4 2020. 

Adjusted net income for FY2021 was $82.2 million, up from an adjusted net loss of $828.9 million in 2020. Lyft reported $32.1 million in net adjusted income for its most recent quarter, up from a loss of $185.3 million during the same period in 2020 and good for 9 cents per diluted share, just above analyst consensus estimates of 8 cents per diluted share. Last quarter, the company posted a net loss of 21 cents per diluted share.

Lyft also reported an increase in its active rider base of nearly 50% year-over-year. The company reported a total of about 18.7 million active riders as of the end of 2021, compared to about 12.6 million as of the end of 2020.

Though that number did fall slightly from Q3 and missed on StreetAccount analyst expectations of 20.2 million, it was counterbalanced by those riders spending more than ever before despite concerns surrounding COVID-19 and the omicron variant. 

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According to Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer, that’s in part due to a doubling of expensive airport rides compared to the year prior. In a statement to Barron’s, Paul said the jump was “driven by improving service levels and higher ride volume,” noting that Lyft remains confident it can pull off a second profitable year despite the short-term challenges of omicron.

While rider numbers fell short of consensus estimates, driver numbers came in strong. According to Zimmer, “Total active drivers in the fourth quarter grew by 34% versus Q4 last year and drivers continued giving more rides on average than they did in 2019. New driver activations were also strong, up nearly 50% year-over-year.”

Lyft reported $2.3 billion of unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, the same as the year prior.

Additionally, Lyft’s earnings report noted the company’s transaction with Woven Planet Holdings, a Toyota subsidiary that acquired its self-driving car division in April. Through that transaction, Lyft will enter into multiyear, nonexclusive commercial agreements with Woven Planet, receiving $515 million in cash over a five-year period.

2022 Outlook

On Lyft’s Q4 2021 earnings call, Paul expressed a positive outlook for the company’s trajectory in 2022. The ride-hailing giant anticipates revenue of $800 million to $850 million in Q1, a decline of 12% to 18% quarter-over-quarter, but it also expects adjusted EBITDA to remain profitable, in the range of $5 million to $15 million.

“Prior to Omicron, we were anticipating strong sequential rideshare ride growth in Q1. This was based on the demand trends we saw in Q4. However, given the impact that Omicron had on rideshare volumes, we now anticipate rideshare rides will be down slightly in Q1 versus Q4,” Paul explained. “In addition, the first quarter of every year always has rideshare ride mix headwinds, with shorter rides and less use of bikes and scooters.”

She was also bullish on Lyft’s ability to attract and retain drivers, citing Q4 2021’s strong driver numbers which reached a COVID high in October. Meanwhile, new drivers grew by 50% year-over-year in Q4, to which Paul credited changing supply and demand dynamics in the marketplace.

“We are pleased with the improvements we have seen over recent quarters and we continue to believe the most severe period of dislocation is behind us. Driver supply so far in Q1 has been resilient and the marketplace has reached an improved balance partially due to softened demand. We remain confident in our ability to manage this issue as we progress through the year,” she stated.

Looking ahead to 2022 as a whole, the company emphasized that while there may be some short-term hiccups in revenue growth due to Omicron, it expects to grow revenues even faster than the 36% jump it achieved between 2020 and 2021.

Zimmer also touched on Lyft’s business strategy for 2022, highlighting three key focus areas: accelerating its core rideshare offering, expand new products and invest in its innovation stack. To that first goal, the company will focus on growing its rider base and increasing trip frequency through features like airport rides, which provide riders with information like flight times and gate changes through a partnership with Delta.

Zimmer also noted that Lyft will expand its new offerings like bikes, scooters, rental cars and vehicle services. The bikes vertical has been particularly promising for Lyft thus far, with trip volumes in 2021 up 40% versus 2020. That includes Citi Bike in New York, which has been one of the most successful offerings.

“To put this in context, last year, more people took rides on Citi Bikes than on BART, the Bay Area’s Regional Transit system,” Zimmer said. “We will continue to invest in these systems, expanding our physical footprint and upgrading the infrastructure as well as adding charging capabilities to our docking stations, which can improve both uptime and costs.”

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.