As long as so many people in cities are sheltering in place or mostly remaining housebound, they aren't using ride-hailing services like Lyft or Uber Technologies (UBER -1.85%). That's why Lyft's business has seen a substantial slowdown.
According to The Information, both ridesharing businesses are seeing demand down over 50%. That's not surprising considering the typical use cases: People use the services to get to work, to entertainment, and to other means of travel. Most of that relates to nonessential activities that are being curtailed at the moment.
Demand for rides is so low that Lyft came to an agreement with Amazon (AMZN 0.14%) that it would encourage its drivers to work for Amazon while the ride-hailing business is at a standstill. Amazon is seeing overwhelming demand for its online retail business as consumer buying is shifting online, so it can certainly use the help. In fact, Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers to help meet that demand, and its Whole Foods grocery delivery business is so swamped by demand it is difficult to even get a delivery time.
On March 31, Lyft paid $465 million to assign its legacy auto insurance liabilities from the period between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2018 to Clarendon National Insurance Company. Fortunately, 80% of the $465 million to be paid will come from the restricted cash held on Lyft's balance sheet as collateral against these claims. In other words, most of this payment is not coming out of Lyft's general corporate cash balances.
Lyft's CFO Brian Roberts said, "This agreement will allow our insurance risk solutions team to spend less time on legacy claims and instead focus their efforts on managing our go-forward insurance costs, which is an important contributor to our path to profitability."
Lyft's business is certainly under tremendous pressure right now, but Lyft has several things going for it. It has a highly variable cost structure -- when its revenues fall, most of its costs fall, too. It also has about $2.8 billion in cash on hand and no debt.
And finally, the company has been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in noncore activities like bike and scooter rentals and autonomous vehicle technology. That gives the company flexibility to curtail that spending if it has to. That's why investors should expect Lyft to survive this difficult period.