Uber is Sucking the Life Out of Taxi Drivers

February 23, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

After an earnings report by yellow-cab money lender Medallion Financial Corp. showed profits, financial analysts and the media saw it as a sign that taxis have successfully fended off the threats of app companies like Uber and Lyft. But, according to Crain’s New York, the report doesn’t show us the whole picture. And, when we zoom out, it actually serves as “more evidence Uber is wiping out city taxi industry’s value.”

This is because, though the company is named after taxi medallions, cabs represent a small amount of the company’s business:

A closer reading of Medallion’s financial statements reveals that loans for taxi-medallion purchases account for less than 20% of its profits. More than 75% are from high-interest loans for luxury purchases such as recreational vehicles and boats. Medallion Financial also provides financing to Greek diners, Chinese laundries and other immigrant-owned businesses.

Furthermore, “the medallion portion of Medallion Financial’s business is shrinking, but only slightly.”

The report doesn’t tell the full story about cabs. When we look at the value of medallions, and revenue within the cab industry, there’s little doubt that after Uber and Lyft appeared on New York City’s streets, cabs were affected negatively:

The average value of medallions sank for the first time in decades, down 20% from its 2013 peak of $1.3 million. Medallion Financial’s share price plummeted 42%, to $9.28, the lowest point in three years. It has since recovered slightly, to $10.79.

A separate announcement on Friday by Taxi and Limousine Commission’s Meera Joshi found that revenue and ridership have slipped by 3% and 5%, respectively, between 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, showing no signs of slowing down, Uber just raised another $1 billion.

(Photo: Kenny Louie)