Ride-sharing companies have spent more than $200 million to support Proposition 22, a measure that would exempt gig-economy companies like Uber Technologies and Lyft from complying with a state law that requires drivers to be classified as employees and not contractors.
California voters will decide Tuesday.
The outlay in support is by far the most money ever spent on a California ballot measure. The figure tops the $154 million spent in 2008 in connection with four separate proposals related to gambling on American Indian reservations.
Most of the total is coming from the gig-economy companies themselves, though Prop 22 also has support from state and county Republican Parties. Most of the funding for the modest No on 22 campaign coming from labor unions.
MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni on Monday published the results of a survey of 1,000 likely California voters. He found strong support for Proposition 22, with 57% in favor, 22% opposed, and 21% undecided.
That is a far more bullish showing for the ride-sharing companies than most other polls. A recent poll from the University of California’s Berkeley Institute of Government Studies shows a much closer race, with 46% of surveyed votes supporting Prop 22 and 42% opposed, with 12% undecided.
The huge outlay to support the measure has resulted in saturation advertising, via television, mail and even in Uber’s own apps. Some Uber drivers sued the company,unsuccessfully,over pop-up adds in the Uber app urging them to support the proposition. A few Uber engineers have loudly and publicly criticized the company’s approach.
Kulkarni wrote in a research note that based on his survey results, he is “tactically positive” on both Uber (ticker: UBER) and Lyft (LYFT). He also noted that compared with Uber, Lyft has much higher exposure to California as a percentage of revenue, at about 15% of pre-Covid bookings, so it has the most to win, or lose, from the outcome of the vote.
Meanwhile, the companies face another issue in the recent spike of Covid-19 cases. Last month, New Street Research analyst Pierre Ferragu cautioned in a research note that a return to lockdowns could put a recent rebound in the Uber Rides business at risk, potentially triggering an additional cash burn of more than $1 billion. In a brief note to clients on Monday, Ferragu recirculated the report, noting that several countries in Europe, including France, England, Belgium and Germany, recently announced strict new lockdown measures.
On Monday afternoon, Uber shares were up 3.6%, to $34.62, while Lyft was up 6% to $24.20.
*By Eric J. Savitz via Barrons*