Investors hungry for that new-stock smell can finally get behind the wheel of Lyft (LYFT 3.34%). The country's second-largest ridesharing service went public on Friday, and it fetches a valuation that's not for the squeamish.
Many of my fellow Fools are really, really, really bearish on Lyft stock given its lack of profitability and nosebleed valuation multiples. But it doesn't have to be that way. Let's take a look at some of the reasons why Lyft might still be a winner for investors.
1. Lyft is putting the pedal to the metal
To say that Lyft is growing quickly is an understatement. Revenue more than doubled last year, and that 103% pop follows Lyft's top line more than tripling in 2017. Hitting the market at a stock price of $72 -- and with the shares opening just north of $87 on Friday -- a revenue multiple in the midteens isn't ideal given its trailing revenue of $2.16 billion, but it's not ludicrous given how fast Lyft's growing.
If you believe that we're still early in the sharing economy in general and ridesharing in particular, the valuation will sort itself out in time. Revenue will probably continue to decelerate at this point, but if the slowdown is gradual, Lyft's going to be a winner.
2. Uber's IPO will make Lyft look even better
Uber expects to go public later this year. There is a wide gap between Uber and Lyft, as the former's self-reported financials show $11.3 billion in revenue for 2018. Uber is currently being valued at roughly $120 billion, and commanding a price tag that is four to five times Lyft's market value may seem proper, at first glance, for a stock generating more than five times the revenue. However, let's take a closer look at where each company is in its respective growth cycle.
Momentum is slowing markedly at Uber. Revenue grew at a 43% clip in 2018 -- well below Lyft's pace -- and those gains decelerated to a 25% uptick in its latest quarter. There are also new revenue streams for Lyft to explore if it should decide to follow Uber into food delivery and more inspired international expansion. Lyft may never catch up to Uber in terms of revenue or valuation, but the gap is wide enough for some investors to side with the faster-growing underdog here.
3. Steering clear of an IPO isn't always the right call
There are plenty of cautionary tales of investors getting burned with high-profile IPOs. Some companies approach exchange listings as exit strategies, and financial results don't hold up after the ticker-tape parade. Sometimes the hype is unsustainable. There's also selling pressure either from folks looking to flip the IPO shares or insiders cashing out after the lock-up expiration.
Thankfully, plenty of stocks continue to move higher after their IPOs. Why would anyone buy an IPO if all or even most of them failed out of the gate?
There are some red flags when it comes to Lyft. Losses are getting worse, as the app-propelled speedster posted a deficit of $911.3 million last year. There are also regulatory risks, and as horror stories pile up for Uber and Lyft riders, things may not get easier on that front. However, a consumer-facing company going public can also be a good thing. It broadens brand awareness and makes it easier for the company to raise money to expand or offer stock in acquisitions.
Debutantes are routinely among a year's biggest gainers, and that's not going to change. Lyft has a lot to prove, but it doesn't mean that it will fail now that it's being put to the test.