RPT-Shares of Lyft surge as cost-cutting charts path to profitability

(Repeats with no change to text or headline)

Feb 10 (Reuters) - Shares of Lyft Inc surged more than 16% in trade before the opening bell on Wednesday after Wall Street analysts said the ride-hailing company’s aggressive cost cuts would push it to profitability as more people get out and about again.

Last year, Lyft hit a wall after coronavirus-induced lockdowns dried up travel and locked most of the world indoors.

As demand gradually recovers, the San Francisco-based company is chopping costs and now expects to be profitable in the third quarter, on an adjusted basis.

“Regardless of whether EBITDA profit comes in Q3 or Q4, Lyft should be structurally more profitable coming out of the pandemic and focused on accelerating operating velocity,” J.P.Morgan analysts said in a note.

Lyft said it would cut an additional $35 million in costs in the current quarter, but also said it will record additional expenses during the first three months of the year to bring more drivers on board in preparation for an uptick in ride demand.

Lyft’s cost controls could help it reach EBITDA profitability even at lower ride volumes, Cowen and Co analysts said.

Wall Street seems impressed, with 24 brokerages locking in a buy or higher rating on the stock, 12 at hold and two at sell or lower. Their median price target is $55, according to data from Refinitiv.

With the pandemic still suppressing ridesharing demand, Wall Street is keen to know how soon larger rival Uber Technologies Inc, which reports results later today, expects a rebound and how its successful food delivery operations is faring.

“Bigger picture, these (Lyft’s) results make us more positive in Uber’s ability to profitably scale post-recovery,” Morgan Stanley said.

Shares of Lyft, which had risen 14% in 2020, were on track to open at their highest in 17 months. (Reporting by Aniruddha Ghosh in Bengaluru, Writing by Subrat Patnaik; Editing by Bernard Orr)