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Biased Lyft Bulls Can't Turn This Broken IPO Around

Rick Munarriz, The Motley Fool

As expected, a lot of Wall Street pros initiated coverage of Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) with bullish ratings. Credit Suisse, Piper Jaffray, JPMorgan, UBS, Jefferies, Canaccord, Stifel, JPM Securities, Raymond James, and Cowen were among the firms kicking off their coverage of the country's second-largest ridesharing service with outperform, overweight, or bull ratings.

The outpouring of optimism isn't a surprise. These are some of the companies that helped take Lyft public nearly four weeks ago. Underwriters typically wait 25 days after a debutante hits the market before putting out analyst notes. With these same firms handing off freshly minted Lyft shares at $72 to their best clients late last month -- and the stock well below that now -- it only makes sense that they would argue that the shares are heading higher.

A happy passenger and driver in a Lyft car.

Image source: Lyft.

Driving in a different direction

Lyft didn't get much of a pop following the wave of bullishness, in part because it was expected. This is just what underwriters do in support of a new offering. With the stock kicking off this week 19% below its IPO price and 34% off of its opening-day peak, any of the 20 Wall Street firms listed as underwriters on the prospectus would be insane to initiate coverage with an unflattering rating.

What's that? KeyBanc analyst Andy Hargreaves is merely neutral on the shares? Wow. Hargreaves is bucking the trend by going with a sector weight rating on Lyft. This isn't a bearish call, but merely being ho-hum on a broken IPO a month after being an underwriter on the offering is a rare sight. His concern is that the true profit potential for ridesharing services will come with self-driving cars, and we're still years away from that being a reality. It may also be a completely different field of leading players by that time. Robo-taxi, anyone?

Hargreaves also feels that growth will decelerate, something that isn't a controversial call for a company that saw its top line more than double last year. He also sees its market share gains against the much larger Uber, as well as the niche itself, slowing down.

It's not all gloom and doom at KeyBanc. Hargreaves is neutral, after all. He sees the fast-growing ridesharing platform in a unique strategic position. Does anyone even know the name of the country's third-largest ride service?

It's still hard for Lyft to drum up excitement. The bullish reports we've been waiting for are finally here, and the shares have declined for three consecutive trading days. The next potential catalyst will be the unbiased bulls -- the ones that chimed in earlier this month -- stepping up to defend their earlier positions. A ridesharing IPO is no fun if it can't shift out of reverse.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.