26.00 +0.58 (2.28%)
Pre-market: 6:05AM EDT
|Bid||0.00 x 2900|
|Ask||26.30 x 1800|
|Day's range||24.81 - 26.77|
|52-week range||13.71 - 47.08|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||N/A|
|PE ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings date||27 May 2020 - 31 May 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y target est||41.64|
Anthony Levandowski, the star self-driving car engineer who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit, has filed a motion to compel Uber into arbitration in the hopes that his former employee will have to shoulder the cost of at least part of the $179 million judgment against him. The motion to compel arbitration filed this week is part of Levandowski's bankruptcy proceedings. It's the latest chapter in a long and winding legal saga that has entangled Uber and Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet.
The auto industry is reeling amid the coronavirus. TPG Global senior advisors and former Ford CEO Mark Fields chats with Yahoo Finance.
(Bloomberg) -- A coronavirus-spurred slowdown in travel and restaurant spending has credit card issuers reworking their offerings.American Express Co. told its Platinum cardholders, who have complained they won’t be able to use their monthly Uber credits for rides, that they can instead use them on Uber’s food-delivery service. The card offers $15 in Uber credits each month, according to the company’s website.Airlines, hotels and restaurants are among the businesses hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments across the U.S. and around the world are telling people to stay at home and ordering businesses to shutter to stem the spread of the highly contagious illness. In many cities, restaurants are allowed to sell meals only for pickup or delivery.Brex Inc., the corporate credit card company focused on startups, is allowing customers to shift rewards toward food delivery and remote collaboration tools and away from ride-sharing, travel and restaurants. Since March 16, spending in travel categories is down as much as 63%, while remote collaboration and delivery spending are up 63%, according to a Brex representative.“In this time of need where you want to get rewards for your spend, companies weren’t getting them anymore,” Henrique Dubugras, Brex’s co-chief executive officer, said in an interview. “We decided to change the rewards program for those who were interested in it to start reflecting what they were actually spending.”JPMorgan Chase & Co. this week began emailing customers of its popular Sapphire Reserve card -- which offers rewards for airfare, hotels and restaurants -- telling them they’d automatically receive a $100 credit toward their $550 annual fee if their card renews between April 1 and July 1. In January, the company raised the annual fee after adding new perks with partners including Lyft and DoorDash.Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, card issuers had been scaling back perks in an effort to focus more on profitability and retaining existing customers. Citigroup Inc. discontinued free trip insurance and price-protection guarantees for all of its U.S. cards last year, and American Express Chief Executive Officer Steve Squeri said in December that rewards competition was leveling off.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- DoorDash Inc., the biggest food delivery app in the U.S., will start delivering goods from 7-Eleven, Wawa and other convenience stores to Americans who are mostly stuck at home for the foreseeable future.The San Francisco-based startup said it began testing the sale of paper towels and other packaged goods this year and decided to accelerate the rollout due to the coronavirus pandemic. DoorDash has more than 1,800 convenience stores around the U.S. available on the app, the company said.The new offering competes to some extent with Amazon.com Inc.’s grocery delivery service and Instacart Inc. Both companies have struggled to meet demand since the outbreak and have said they’re adding a combined 400,000 workers. This week, some workers at both companies went on strike over accusations of unfair pay and labor policies.Uber Technologies Inc. is also looking to expand its food delivery app with groceries. It owns a majority stake in Latin America’s Cornershop and intends to bring the grocery service to other countries. “That business is absolutely exploding in the right way,” Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive officer, said in a Bloomberg TV interview last month. “We have a global brand, and we can essentially take Cornershop and make it a global brand.”(Updates with Uber reporting in the last paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- A star Silicon Valley engineer who defected from Google to Uber Technologies Inc. -- only to be fired, tagged as the villain in a trade-secret theft dispute and driven into bankruptcy -- says the ride-sharing company owes him more than $180 million for travails and lost time.Anthony Levandowski, hailed by both companies as a prodigy of driverless car technology, contends Uber didn’t keep its promise to cover his legal bills when it aggressively recruited him in 2016. Google later accused Levandowski of poaching its engineers in violation of his contract and clawed back a $120 million bonus it had paid him, plus about $60 million in interest and attorneys fees.In his arbitration demand against Uber, Levandowski says he was warned by none other than Larry Page that he’d face “negative consequences” if he left to compete with Google. But he was reassured by Uber’s agreement to indemnify him against Google’s anticipated retribution, and Uber paid for his defense for almost three years.Until, that is, Google won. Levandowski says that in April 2018, days before the final hearing in Google’s arbitration, Uber told him it wanted to be repaid.“After it was clear that Mr. Levandowski could be liable for a substantial judgment, Uber reneged on its deal and refused to pay the expenses, including any potential judgment, as required by the indemnification agreement,” according to the engineer’s filing. Levandowski says Uber’s position is that it was “fraudulently induced” to indemnify him.“Uber insisted on controlling his defense as part of its duty to indemnify him. Then, when Uber didn’t like the outcome, it suddenly changed its mind,” Levandowski’s lawyer, Neel Chatterjee, said in an email. “What Uber did is wrong, and Anthony has to protect his rights as a result.”As bad as the outcome of the Google arbitration was, it only got worse for Levandowski. Last year, he was criminally indicted for stealing trade secrets from Google. He agreed last month to plead guilty to one count and faces as long as 30 months in prison when he’s sentenced in August. Also in March, the engineer filed for bankruptcy.Uber, standing by a regulatory disclosure it previously made about Google’s arbitration, said in a statement that whether Uber is ultimately responsible indemnifying Levandowski “is subject to a dispute” between him and the company.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- A Michigan bid to raise taxes on the rich hits the rocks. A proposed amendment allowing sports betting at Indian casinos in California stalls. An effort to bring light to how political ads are funded in Arizona is suspended.Across the country, stay-at-home decrees are blocking the most essential part of efforts to get these proposals on ballots in November: Gathering signatures in person. The virus is preventing organizers from courting supporters in supermarkets and shopping malls just as deadlines loom.“The coronavirus is a huge blow to direct democracy,” said Fred Kimball, president of Kimball Petition Management, a California signature-gathering company. “I’ve never seen anything like it – never. Usually I’m the guy they call to fight through this and get a lot of stuff done at the last minute, but this year there’s nothing I can do.”Proposition 13California is among 24 states with initiative systems enabling voters to sidestep legislatures and place statutory changes and, in some places, constitutional amendments on ballots.The first state to adopt an initiative system was South Dakota in 1898, and since then states from Florida to Oregon have followed. California’s landmark 1978 measure limiting escalation of property taxes, Proposition 13, spawned a national movement and accelerated adoption of what advocates call direct-democracy initiative campaigns around the country.“There’s no question that the pandemic changes the strategy advocacy organizations are using to affect issues,” said Michael Latner, political science professor at California Polytechnic State University. “The work of these groups is going out, canvassing, meeting people and gathering support, and all that has to stop.”Signatures Are EverythingWhen signature drives stall, proponents are left with little recourse other than to wait until hand-to-hand canvassing is permitted again.Advocates can approach lawmakers about endorsing their ideas and introducing them as bills in state legislatures, said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting for the National Conference of State Legislatures. But in many cases proponents of ballot measures have already tried that path and found it unworkable.Initiatives require physical signatures that can be scrutinized and verified -– online signature-gathering isn’t permitted. While well-financed campaigns can try to shift to direct mail or online outreach, such methods are far less efficient than canvassing and more expensive, Latner said.Signature-gathering campaigns that have been suspended this year include an effort to identify donors behind political ad campaigns in Arizona, graduated-tax and lobbying-reform in Michigan, medical marijuana legalization in Nebraska, a citizen redistricting commission in Arkansas, a gun-control initiative in Oregon, a $5.5 billion bond issue for stem-cell research and a constitutional amendment permitting sports betting on Indian reservations in California, and many others.“In keeping with the governor’s statewide order for non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home, we’ve suspended all signature gathering for the time being,” said Sarah Melbostad, spokeswoman for the California stem-cell campaign, adding that the group believes it still has time to qualify.Some campaigns have already gathered the required number of signatures and appear likely to qualify. Those include a California proposal backed by ride-sharing companies Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to allow drivers to continue to be designated as independent contractors, rather than employees, while providing them with new benefits.The proposal was designed to counter a state law that took effect in January that aims to force companies, including Uber and Lyft, to treat more workers as employees who entitled to paid sick days and minimum wage, among other benefits.“We gathered more than a million signatures in seven weeks,” said Stacey Wells, spokeswoman for the campaign. “We didn’t know the coronavirus was coming. We had a lot people who were eager to sign and a thousand drivers who wanted to gather signatures.”The number of signatures needed and the deadlines for submitting signatures vary by state. In California, the functional deadline for submission of signatures to qualify for the November ballot is April 21, Kimball said. That allows counties and then the secretary of state’s office to review and verify signatures.California requires 623,212 valid signatures for an initiative to be placed on the ballot and 997,139 to qualify a constitutional amendment. In any drive, hundreds of thousands of signatures turn out to be duplicates or are otherwise deemed invalid, Kimball said, so campaigns try to gather many more than the minimum required.“I have contracts on two initiatives – a dialysis initiative and a pain-and-suffering initiative that adjusts the award limit in medical negligence cases,” he said. “Projecting a 70% validity rate, you need about 900,000 signatures, and I have about a million each for my two campaigns. Other campaigns have had to shut down because of the virus. Those initiatives will not be on the ballot because of it.”One campaign that suspended signature-gathering in the California is the group promoting sports wagering at Indian casinos.“We are just shy of one million signatures and would have reached our goal well ahead of the deadline before the unprecedented orders around Covid-19,” said Jacob Mejia, spokesman for the campaign. “We remain committed to bringing this issue to voters in November and are monitoring circumstances closely.”Tax, Lobbying Initiatives StalledWhile western states such as California, Oregon and Colorado are known for aggressive adoption of ballot measures – and for initiatives on every ballot that sometimes seek to sidestep laws or force action on issues lawmakers have declined to embrace – initiatives have become an increasingly popular method of forcing change in other places as well.In Michigan, the campaign to replace the state’s flat tax rate with a tiered plan taxing higher earners at higher rates and an effort to clamp down on lobbying in the state capital of Lansing are both casualties of the coronavirus, their organizers say. Both groups, Fair Tax Michigan and the Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes, said they would suspend efforts to place measures on this year’s ballot and shift their goal to the 2022 election.“I can imagine that citizens who have been working on issues around the country are quite disappointed that this process has ceased to function,” said Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s one more area where Covid has brought things to a screeching halt.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Uber Eats and Delivery Hero are expanding from providing restaurant meals into supplying groceries to customers stuck at home during lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus crisis. Uber Eats said on Wednesday it is teaming up with French supermarket group Carrefour for a new delivery service aimed at helping Parisians buy essential goods and food, and also has similar plans in Spain and Brazil. Berlin-based online marketplace Delivery Hero has also made changes to its operations spanning more than 40 countries to help get groceries to customers.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- A whole generation of tech startups was built on the premise that the most lucrative business models aim to connect people or businesses on one side of the marketplace with people or businesses on the other side.Whether Tinder, Uber Technologies Inc. or Airbnb Inc., the platform theory held that acting as a facilitator for someone else’s offering meant you could scrape off commission while maintaining an asset-light business whose low operational costs rewarded you with high profitability. But no one foresaw an event that would shut down a whole side of the marketplace, and the coronavirus pandemic has done just that. For Airbnb, self-isolation means that nobody is travelling. There is plenty of supply with millions of listings still on the site, but the demand has all but evaporated. The same goes for Uber rides.In food delivery, it’s the supply side that has difficulties. On the whole, services like Uber Eats, Grubhub Inc., Deliveroo and Just Eat Takeaway depend on existing restaurants to cook meals. But for many, if not most, of those restaurants, the main business was still preparing food for on-site dining. Now that’s not possible in the U.K., France, Italy and elsewhere, continuing to operate as a delivery-only operation fundamentally changes the economics of the business: Restaurants still have operating costs, except now they might have to direct a quarter of their income to the food delivery platforms. Many have simply shut their doors completely because they can’t make it work. Chinese delivery platform Meituan Dianping is already feeling the impact, as my colleague Tim Culpan wrote yesterday. (Uber Eats and Grubhub are trying to counter the trend by subsidizing some restaurant costs.)Which is why companies like HelloFresh SE and Blue Apron Holdings Inc., long the subject of Silicon Valley derision, suddenly seem to have very sensible business models. On the surface, they are similar to the food delivery platforms: They too deliver food.The difference is that, because they deliver meal kits they put together in their own kitchens, they control the supply, whereas a firm like Deliveroo has to worry about ensuring it has enough restaurants and customers. HelloFresh’s concern is simply demand. Even then, there’s less need for as high a density of demand than for takeaway food — though of course it helps. Because customers cook the meals themselves, there’s less anxiety about a dish congealing in the panniers of a moped. While Deliveroo has started operating some of its own kitchens, it still has to compete with Grubhub, Just Eat Takeaway and Uber Eats on two fronts. HelloFresh can concentrate on one: customers.The upshot is that business is soaring for the meal-kit firms. HelloFresh said Monday it’s expecting first-quarter sales of between 685 million euros ($750 million) and 710 million euros, up from 420 million euros a year earlier. Analysts had been expecting revenue of 553 million euros. The company anticipates adjusted first-quarter Ebitda of as much as 75 million euros — in just three months, it's set to make about three quarters of the profit that analysts had anticipated for the full year. Uber, which isn't expected to be profitable at all on a similar basis until 2022, has seen just a 10% jump in U.S. orders at its food delivery business, according to The Information.HelloFresh stock is up 70% this year, valuing the Berlin-based firm at 5.2 billion euros — more than Grubhub or grocers Casino Guichard Perrachon SA and Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc. Beleaguered Blue Apron’s shares have jumped more than fourfold from a March 13 low, giving it a $156 million market capitalization, though its ability to capitalize on surging demand is more limited — it has been cutting costs in recent months. Meanwhile HelloFresh is expanding: It plans to add 400 employees at a site in Oxfordshire, near London, according to the BBC.Silicon Valley dogma tends to dictate that assets are bad. But in some instances, more control over the factors of supply can be very satisfying indeed.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Uber co-founder Garrett Camp is relinquishing his role as a board director and switching to board observer -- where he says he'll focus on product strategy for the ride hailing giant. Camp made the announcement in a short Medium post in which he writes of his decade at Uber: "I’ve learned a lot, and realized that I’m most helpful when focused on product strategy & design, and this is where I’d like to focus going forward." "I will continue to work with Dara [Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO] and the product and technology leadership teams to brainstorm new ideas, iterate on plans and designs, and continue to innovate at scale," he adds.
(Bloomberg) -- Meituan Dianping surged as much as 10% after the internet services giant said its food delivery business began to recover in March, when shuttered restaurants re-opened and much of China returned to work.Meituan, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., told analysts on a conference call Monday that demand for food delivery picked up this month, putting it on track for a longer-term recovery after Covid-19 froze a swath of the world’s second largest economy. But it also projected an operating loss and revenue decline this quarter, and warned that the full extent of fallout from the pandemic -- particularly on its travel and ride-sharing businesses -- remained uncertain in 2020. Its stock was up roughly 7% in early trade after Daiwa lifted its price target and said Meituan should return to growth in the second half.Meituan joined sector bellwethers from Sony Corp. to Apple Inc. and Twitter Inc. in emphasizing the difficulty of parsing an unprecedented event and its impact on their business. The Chinese company is one of the most exposed of the country’s major tech corporations to the spread of Covid-19. The company’s outlook is further clouded by China’s worsening economy, which may contract this quarter for the first time since 1989, denting consumer spending.“Although we have seen gradual recovery from March especially for food delivery business, the active merchants of our in-store service category remain at a very low level as of late March,” Chief Financial Officer Chen Shaohui said on the call. “We expect consumers will need more time to build their consumption confidence for local consumption especially those discretionary consumption scenarios in our in-store business.”What Bloomberg Intelligence SaysDespite mild improvements in Meituan’s local services in late March as the virus outbreak subsided in China, the timing of a full operational recovery remains highly uncertain. Its food-delivery business may stay slow, with many restaurants still closed and consumers wary of interactions with delivery personnel. Its in-store, hotel and travel businesses may take even longer to recover, as users stayed home. Strong 42% sales gains and 117% gross-profit expansion in 4Q suggest Meituan’s longer-term growth drivers are intact. The company plans to maintain strategic investments in B2B food distribution and restaurant management systems.\- Vey-Sern Ling and Tiffany Tam, analystsClick here for the research.Read more: Chinese Abandon Food Delivery Fearing Drivers Will Spread VirusThe coronavirus dealt an as-yet unquantifiable blow to a company that, before the outbreak erupted in January, was on track to take its place among the country’s most influential technology corporations. While Meituan’s stock has taken a pounding like every other Chinese internet firm, a 2019 rally secured its position as China’s largest publicly traded internet firm after Alibaba and Tencent.“Market expectations were very low as investors have seen the damage COVID-19 has inflicted on offline service providers,” Nomura analyst Shi Jialong wrote.Meituan on Monday reported a better-than-expected 42% jump in revenue to 28.2 billion yuan ($4 billion) in the three months ended December, compared with the 26.5 billion-yuan average of analysts’ estimates. It booked a profit for the quarter of almost 1.5 billion yuan, versus expectations for a loss.The company still harbors ambitions well beyond its current core business. Meituan had been diversifying from takeout, investing in other online services including travel, competing directly against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. But others are elbowing their way into Meituan’s turf. Ride-hailing giant Didi recently launched a delivery service similar to Uber Eats across major Chinese cities, while Alibaba-backed Alipay is also morphing into an all-in-one online services platform that allows everything from restaurant booking to car-hailing.Executives on Monday stressed the company will keep investing in new initiatives from bike-sharing to online groceries, an e-commerce segment that accelerated sharply after the pandemic forced millions to work -- and cook -- from home. Meituan said it’s setting up the logistics to support that business while exploring ways to roll out the business to more Chinese cities.“The pandemic has already caused severe disruptions to the daily operations of our merchants, including restaurants, local services merchants and hotels, which in turn resulted in downward pressure on our own operations for the first quarter of 2020,” Meituan said in its filing. “Due to the high uncertainty of the evolving situation, we are unable to fully ascertain the expected impact on full year 2020 at this stage.”Read more: Virus Outbreak Exposes $46 Billion Rift in China’s Tech IndustryFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
As grocery outlets and retailers across the country ramp up employment to keep up with demand during the coronavirus outbreak, they’re also facing growing backlash from workers who say their lives are being put at risk.
The use of video conferencing services like Zoom and Skype has seen a boom as of late as more look for easier ways to work and communicate remotely. Linguistics tech company Jeenie is looking to offer that same solution for those needing interpretation services.
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is teaming up with Lyft Inc. on recruiting the ride-hailing company’s drivers to deliver packages and groceries as the pandemic keeps people indoors.In an email to Lyft drivers Friday, the company referred them to work opportunities at Amazon as grocery shoppers, warehouse workers or delivery people “as a way to earn additional income right now.” The message from Lyft, which came in response to plummeting demand for rides and economic hardships facing drivers, also indicated that drivers could qualify for compensation in the U.S. stimulus bill.While Amazon and Lyft have competed for workers in the past, the surge in grocery and package deliveries has reset that dynamic. Amazon said last week it plans to hire 100,000 people and give U.S. workers a temporary $2-an-hour raise in an effort to meet the crushing demand. However, Amazon is under fire for not doing enough to protect its workers, some of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus. The company said it has stepped up cleaning in its warehouses and is giving guidelines to workers about maintaining safe distances.Declines in the ride-hailing business are sharp. Recent estimates put a drop in fare prices at as much as 11% and demand at about 20%. Uber Technologies Inc., the largest ride-hailing operator, can partly offset the shortfall with its restaurant delivery business, which is seeing an uptick. Lyft doesn’t deliver food.In the email to drivers reviewed by Bloomberg, Lyft suggested that in addition to seeking immediate work with Amazon, drivers could sign up to help deliver groceries, Covid-19 tests and other medical supplies as part of future partnership programs. Lyft said more than 100,000 drivers had already signed up.Lyft urged drivers to follow federal health guidelines and suggested installing a plastic barrier in their vehicles, along with a link to buy such a kit on Amazon. A Lyft spokeswoman declined to specify terms of the arrangement with Amazon.(Updates with additional reporting starting in the fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Dockless scooter companies charged into cities in 2018, promising a mobility revolution with cheap, clean rides and billions in venture capital backing. Yet they soon faced roadblocks, including shaky business models, safety concerns, and fast-moving city regulators. At the start of 2020, cash-losing operators were shrinking their headcounts and vehicle fleets.Now as governments around the world fight to slow the coronavirus pandemic, micromobility companies are facing a deeper existential challenge. The two largest global operators, Lime and Bird, drastically reduced fleets by mid March. Several other startups, including Wheels and Jump, say they’re looking at how to continue operating as cities issue lockdown orders and demand plummets. The appeal of sharing a high-touch vehicle with an unknown number of strangers has succumbed to the fear of viral transmission.Lime’s CEO and co-founder Brad Bao wrote in a blog post on March 21 that the startup is “winding down or pausing” service in all markets but South Korea. Prior to the pandemic, the company operated nearly 120,000 scooters in 30 countries across the Americas and Europe. Bird announced it is removing its fleets in six U.S. cities: Miami and Coral Gables, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; and Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose. It had already pulled vehicles from 21 European cities.Jump, a subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc., has paused electric bike and scooter rentals in most of its European markets and trimmed the size of its fleets across the U.S. It stopped service entirely in Sacramento at the city’s request. Lyft Inc. has continued to operate its network of mostly docked bikeshare systems in eight U.S. markets. So far, it’s kept dockless scooters available for rent in all urban markets but Miami. Every company with vehicles in circulation said that they have heightened their handlebar sanitation protocols and are encouraging riders to do the same.The sudden disappearance of scooters and e-bikes comes after months of industry turbulence. Lime and Bird have struggled to raise money from investors, and both cut staff starting late last year. The companies, once singularly focused on growth, have realized their problematic business plans need rethinking.Last year, talks of an acquisition of either company by Uber didn’t pan out. Some industry watchers said the eye-popping valuations of each—in 2019 Lime and Bird hit $2.4 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively—were a factor. The Information reported on Thursday that layoffs are now imminent at Lime, as it seeks emergency funding at a valuation of just $400 million. (A Lime communications officer denied that layoffs are coming.) Uber and Lyft, both of which went public in 2019, conducted layoffs in their own micromobility divisions late last year, and both recently pulled dockless vehicles from several markets. Wheels and Lime say ridership was rising before the start of widespread social distancing. The decisions to reduce urban fleets now have been motivated largely by a sense of responsibility for the health of their riders and workers who maintain the vehicles, Lime and Bird say. The economics of the business is also an undeniable factor, said David Spielfogel, Lime’s chief policy officer. “If everyone is sheltering in place and not moving around, the business is no longer sustainable,” he said. Tourists, which generate significant scooter ridership in many cities, have also vanished from most markets. While there may be ways for Lime to generate revenue during the crisis, that’s not a priority while people are at home, and “governments are trying to get the virus under control,” Spielfogel said.Many investors, already skeptical about the viability of the e-scooter business, say the current situation could be the nail in the coffin for an industry beset by financial, safety, and regulatory woes. “I’ve heard a number of people compare the plight of the scooter companies to Uber and Lyft. Like them, scooters are seeing plummeting usage,” says Aaron Michel, a partner at the early-stage venture capital firm 1984 Ventures, which has no investments in the micromobility space. “Unlike Uber and Lyft, though, the verdict was pretty much in on the scooter industry before the virus arrived.” Companies without major backers will go under, he expects, while deeper-pocketed businesses will pare back to bare minimums.Emily Castor Warren, a principal and director of policy at the transportation planning firm Nelson\Nygaard and a former director of policy at both Lyft and Lime, agreed that the pandemic could be a death knell for scooter businesses with large overhead costs, especially those that were already in an uncertain financial position. “I think it’s pretty dire,” she says. “If these lockdowns persist, they’re going to have to, at the very least, undertake major layoffs to core teams, because the one cost they can’t bring down to zero is salaries for headcount and real estate for their offices.”The short-term outlook may not be so precarious for every micromobility company. Wheels, a startup that operates dockless electric minibikes in 17 cities in Europe and the U.S., raised $50 million in October in a funding round led by DBL Partners.The company announced on March 27 that it will roll out vehicles with self-cleaning handlebars and brake levers that can be used for delivery services and other essential uses, while its shared bikes are suspended until the end of March. The company has partnered with NanoSeptic, which has developed the self-cleaning surface. The technology uses mineral nano-crystals that continuously oxidize organic contaminants.Scooter operator Spin hasn’t felt the same capital pressure as some of its peers—it’s owned by the Ford Motor Co. Until this week, Spin was the sole scooter provider to maintain normal operations—in its case, serving 66 U.S. cities and 12 college campuses—but it changed course on Tuesday. The company will retain scooters only in Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.“We have made the decision to pause our operations, as of today, in all other cities due to significant demand drop off as communities combat the fast-spreading virus,” the company’s co-founders wrote in a Medium post. “This pause will remain in effect until further notice.” Spin’s communications staff couldn’t clarify which specific markets would be losing vehicles, and Ford’s communications team rebuffed multiple requests for interviews with executives. Molly Turner, a lecturer in business and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and an adviser to technology startups including Spin, said the cities the company is continuing to serve may indicate where it’s had the greatest financial success to date. The markets Spin is pulling out of may show “where scooters weren’t a viable business or didn’t have enough penetration to succeed without the special partnerships or promotions that are impossible right now,” she says.That may be the case for all companies in question, as travel right now, no matter what the mode of transportation, has come to a near standstill. Several scooter operators, including Jump, Lime, Spin, and Wheels, are considering opportunities to partner with local governments or essential service providers as a way to continue operations, as residents avoid buses, trains, and other public transit under shelter-in-place mandates. New York City saw ridership on its Citi Bike system jump 67% in mid-March, after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced social distancing guidelines. On March 21, ridership on the city’s subway, the nation’s largest mass transit system, was down 87% from the same time last year. Some investors view the decline in transit use as one reason for optimism about the mid-term prospects for micromobility. Assuming commuters remain skittish about crowding into buses and subway cars after the shelter-in-place orders lift, scooter and e-bike companies could take the opening to push for looser regulations and the reversal of the scooter bans ordered in some world cities, says Bradley Tusk, a co-founder and managing partner of Tusk Ventures and an investor in Bird. “With warming weather, better needs, and arguments for legalization and less saturated markets, [and] with companies like Lime contracting, there’s a legitimate opportunity over the next 3-6 months,” he wrote in an email.An additional upside could come in selling or leasing scooters and e-bikes directly to riders, says Niko Bonatsos, managing director at General Catalyst, an early-stage venture capital fund that hasn’t invested in dockless rentals. “Right now we hate each other and can’t stand each other’s company, and getting an Uber or grabbing someone else’s shared scooter might not be the best idea,” he said. “But if you have your own bike, now is the time to use it.” Bird offers a monthly leasing program, as does the electric moped startup Zebra.For cities that have come to value shared micromobility services as a sustainable transportation option, subsidizing them may be the only way to secure their existence long-term, Castor Warren says. Some traditional docked bikeshare systems, including those in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., are owned by local governments but operated by Lyft. “In that model the city has more ability to ensure continuity of operations and ensure that service will be provided to the public, because they’ve extended their own resources, even if the bottom falls out of the economy,” she says.Such a scenario would prove what skeptics have said about dockless scooters and ride-hailing companies from the start. History has shown that establishing a new transportation service often requires massive subsidies from investors or governments.For now, even though they may be allowed to continue to operate in many cities, the scooter companies are going it alone. Says Turner: “They’re not getting a bailout from Congress.”(Updates ninth paragraph to include an announcement by Wheels on March 27.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Masayoshi Son has been among the most fervent believers in the sharing economy, investing billions in startups that help people split the use of cars, rooms and offices. But as the coronavirus curtails unnecessary human interaction, it’s hammering such businesses and rattling the foundations of Son’s SoftBank Group Corp.In New York City, the co-working space of SoftBank-backed WeWork stands practically empty as tenants stay home for fear of infection. In Shanghai, drivers for the ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing have seen their pay plummet as customers avoid shared automobiles. In San Francisco, Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., another SoftBank investment, said “I wouldn’t put my kids in an Uber.”Investors are increasingly spooked about the stability of Son’s empire and its $100 billion Vision Fund amid the pandemic. Before this week, SoftBank shares had tumbled about 50% in a single month, including their worst one-day decline since the Japanese billionaire listed his company in 1994. In response, the SoftBank impresario launched one of the most audacious deals of his career: sell part of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and other assets to raise $41 billion to buy back shares and slash debt.While that envisioned deal put a floor under the share price, it hasn’t changed the fundamental vulnerability of an edifice built on sharing-economy standouts that’ve been walloped since sheltering in place became the norm. SoftBank gained about 40% since Son revealed that blueprint, which is said to include unloading $14 billion of Alibaba stock for starters. But it remains down about 30% from a February peak. In fact, Moody’s Corp. questioned the wisdom of selling prized assets into a market downturn and pushed SoftBank’s debt deeper into junk territory. SoftBank fired back by accusing Moody’s of bias, but its stock fell 9.4% on Thursday.“Right now, investments sensitive to sharing and the economy are not where you want to be, with the pandemic encouraging a stay-at-home mentality,” said Pelham Smithers, whose London-based firm offers research on Asian technology companies, in a note to clients. Companies such as WeWork, Uber and the hotel-booking Oyo “weren’t profitable when times were (relatively) good, begging the question, what will their economics look like in 2020?”Read more: Masa Son Unveils a $41 Billion Asset Sale to Silence His CriticsDespite the stock bounce, SoftBank’s credit default swaps -- the cost of insuring debt against default -- are still near their highest levels in a decade. The concern isn’t so much that the Japanese giant won’t be able to pay its own debts -- its cash will cover money due for at least the next two years. Rather, investors fret that Son’s 80-plus portfolio companies will struggle in the current environment, triggering negative headlines and massive writedowns.“With the prospect of more good money being sunk into firms like WeWork and Oyo, investors would not have reacted as positively as they did this week,” Amir Anvarzadeh, a market strategist at Asymmetric Advisors Pte. in Singapore, said in a note to clients.Most worrisome for investors, Son -- who saw $70 billion wiped from his net worth in the dot-com crash -- may feel compelled to step in to support some of his startups rather than see them fail. The litany of woes surrounding SoftBank’s highest-profile startups threatens to tarnish Son’s reputation as a tech investor -- one built largely on an early bet on Alibaba before it came to dominate Chinese e-commerce, which he’s struggled to replicate.Last year, after WeWork’s effort to go public fell apart, SoftBank stepped in to organize a $9.5 billion bailout. Son had to choose between financial aid or bankruptcy, at a time when risk aversion is straining global tech investment.“SoftBank frustrated investors already with its assistance to WeWork last year,” said Makoto Kikuchi, chief investment officer at Myojo Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “SoftBank owns many investments such as tech companies that get hit particularly in this situation.”SoftBank and Vision Fund representatives declined to comment for the story.Read more: SoftBank Blasts Moody’s for ‘Biased’ Ratings DowngradeSon did vow he wouldn’t step in to rescue any more portfolio companies after WeWork and called for more financial discipline. Among SoftBank startups, Brandless Inc. said in February it would close down while satellite operator OneWeb is mulling a possible bankruptcy filing.“It’s unlikely that SoftBank portfolio companies will see any of that money, because the announcement was pretty clear on the purpose of the asset sale,” said Justin Tang at United First Partners. “In fact, it would be an opportune time for SoftBank to get rid of its weaker portfolio companies and stick with the leaders.”On Wednesday, Moody’s said it will watch SoftBank and the extent to which tumbling valuations will hurt its tech-heavy portfolio. Son’s biggest bet to date has been on ride-hailing, with stakes in Uber and the leading companies in China, India and Southeast Asia. The latest to exhibit signs of trouble was European player Getaround, which is now said to be dangerously short of cash and actively seeking a buyer.Beijing-based Didi Chuxing is another prime example of how the virus is walloping these operations. The startup, once tagged at $56 billion, had struggled to justify its valuation even before the latest crisis because of a government crackdown on its services. Ridership tumbled during the outbreak in China and Didi cut driver subsidies.Sheng Gang, a 34-year-old Shanghai resident, said he used to earn a 36 yuan ($5) bonus for every four rides during the morning rush hour; now that’s been lowered to just 6 yuan for every three. He expects his income to drop by about half this month to around 10,000 yuan.“I don’t have a Plan B since I just bought a new car,” Sheng said.Wen Peng, a 35-year-old Hebei native, earned around 6,000 yuan a month as a part-time driver. But when the coronavirus hit, most people chose to stay inside and he couldn’t sustain himself. He quit in February.“People didn’t leave their homes, almost no one wanted rides,” he said. “Many others quit for similar reasons.”A Didi spokeswoman said ridership has rebounded significantly in recent weeks as people went back to work.Read more: WeWork’s New Crisis: ‘Workplaces Will Never Be the Same’WeWork is another question mark: SoftBank has told WeWork shareholders that it could withdraw from the agreement to buy $3 billion of its stock that was part of a bailout deal. WeWork has kept its offices open despite the virus, even while other co-working operators have closed them. That may be because revenue would disappear otherwise, just as SoftBank is trying to engineer a turnaround. WeWork said Thursday it doesn’t expect to hit its 2020 financial targets as it grapples with the outbreak.One executive who usually uses a WeWork office on Park Avenue in New York said hardly anyone shows up anymore. His WeWork representative has stopped coming to the site and works remotely. He figures customers may be canceling their leases or simply not paying, which would leave WeWork on the hook for rent owed to the landlord, Tishman Speyer. “None of us are going to the office,” he said. “But we’ve decided for now to just kick any decisions down the road for six months.”Then there’s Oyo, which is in a particularly tricky spot. The Indian company has been expanding rapidly by guaranteeing a certain amount of revenue to hotels if they sign on as franchisees. But with few travelers anywhere, Oyo has to pay hotels even when their rooms are mostly empty.At the Kawasaki Hotel Park in Japan, more than 400 reservations were canceled for February to April. The result was a drop in revenue of about 25 million yen ($226,000), according to Sanho Miyamoto, the owner.“Overseas customers disappeared and Japanese businessmen halted business trips. I had to ask our employees to take a vacation for a while,“ Miyamoto said. “I am worried whether Oyo can manage because it guarantees the revenue fall for its members.”He wouldn’t comment on arrangements with Oyo. But if the startup paid the entire shortfall, it would lose about $240,000 on a single hotel.Read more: Masayoshi Son’s Other Big Real Estate Bet Has Some Real ProblemThere’s opportunity in the downturn too. SoftBank-backed Slack Technologies Inc., a popular work communications tool among home workers, has surged following lockdowns from New York to California. And after a difficult first year in Japan, Oyo has turned to promising cash for hotels that join its platform as bookings plunged. While the company didn’t say how much it was prepared to spend, that kind of opportunism can only shorten its runway of available cash.Investors fear that companies like Oyo have become too big to fail for SoftBank, Atul Goyal, senior analyst at Jefferies Group, wrote in a report. The WeWork rescue showed that “zero is not a floor” for any SoftBank investment and that Son is willing to throw more good money after bad, he wrote.SoftBank may soon prove Goyal right. The company is seeking to raise an additional $10 billion so its first Vision Fund can support portfolio companies, according to people with knowledge of the matter. And the list of SoftBank portfolio firms that may soon need help also includes gym company Gympass, Getaround and travel startups Klook and GetYourGuide.“These startups are geared for high growth and high cash burn,” Goyal said. “As revenues fall, they will need further infusions of capital to keep the lights on.”Read more: SoftBank Seeks $10 Billion to Support Vision Fund Companies(An earlier version of the story corrected the name of GetYourGuide.)(Updates with WeWork’s warning in the 21st paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The Senate's historic $2 trillion stimulus package will make history in one more way: by providing some financial assistance to gig workers. Late last night, the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the bill, which makes its way to the House of Representatives for a vote this week, gig workers would be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.