A report issued earlier this week by Moody’s, a credit rating agency, analyzed 54 business practices across the industries it covers. Some of the most surprising business practices were predictive of risk, so I looked into how Lyft (LYFT) is typically rated, and found some eye-opening practices.
For the report, Moody’s examined companies with a market cap of more than $100 million. Following rankings that recognize “staying power,” “size differentiation,” and “size of potential markets,” the credit ratings agency looks at the risk companies face. They examine, in Moody’s words, “companies’ debt and equity needs and their access to capital markets and the characteristics of underwriters that are most likely to provide that financing.”
Here are some of the risks Lyft faces that might not be present at Uber.
An “unproven, market-dominant position”:
Lyft has only one year of revenues in its public reports, as of this writing. As such, Moody’s assigns “materially low” ratings (F1) to Lyft (as well as to competitor Uber) simply because it is hard to come up with a reliable valuation. Moody’s evaluates Lyft’s market position, noting, “Lyft continues to have an unproven, market-dominant position that it has built from scratch.” This evaluation is fairly similar to CFO Sherif Marakby’s remarks that “Lyft does not have a historic track record.”
Expansion through purchase or acquisition:
In Moody’s opinion, buying someone else’s business would be a “strategic priority,” and a “must do” for a company that wants to be a “future leader.” On the other hand, buying Lyft for $2.6 billion only a few months after Uber’s acquisition of the Otto trucking company would count as an “unlikely” move that “would not lend itself to creating a true innovator.”
“Frequent and even one-off competition” also reflects the risk of Lyft’s maintaining its competitive advantage without sufficient capital. Moody’s said competition from other startups is “likely to continue even after Lyft takes significant steps to integrate the Lyft and General Motors dealer channels.”
When products are poorly organized, they’re more expensive. Moody’s says that Lyft’s business model “reflects a historically long-standing preference for rather less organized [but recently changed] rideshare product options than Uber’s highly organized, or ‘scheduled’ ridesharing service.”