Upstart shares plummet 50% after company cuts full-year revenue forecast

In this photo illustration an Upstart Holdings logo is seen on a smartphone screen.

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Shares of Upstart plummeted Tuesday after the artificial intelligence lending platform cut its full-year revenue outlook, citing rising interest rates and an uncertain economy.

The company had reported better-than-expected first-quarter results Monday after the bell, but also slashed its 2022 revenue forecast to $1.25 billion from a prior estimate of $1.4 billion.

Upstart expects second-quarter revenue of $295 million to $305 million, while analysts surveyed by Refinitiv predicted $335 million, on average.

The stock plunged about 53% as of 9:37 a.m. ET and trading was halted briefly right after U.S. markets opened.

“Given the general macro uncertainties and the emerging prospect of a recession later this year, we have deemed it prudent to reflect a higher degree of conservatism in our forward expectations,” said CFO Sanjay Datta on Upstart’s earnings call Monday.

The company, which uses artificial intelligence to gauge creditworthiness, said climbing interest rates are hurting loan volume.

“In addition to increasing rates for approved borrowers, this also has the effect of lowering approval rates for applicants on the margin,” said CEO David Girouard on the earnings call.

Upstart management indicated further economic challenges ahead as the Federal Reserve continues to hike rates and cut its balance sheet to tamp down on persistent inflation.

“Given the hawkish signals from the Fed, we anticipate prices will move even higher later this year, which will have the effect of reducing our transaction volume, all else being equal,” Girouard added.

Plus, the company noted borrower defaults are normalizing. During the pandemic, charge-off and delinquency rates reached decades-long lows amid government aid and stimulus programs.

“After remaining at historically low levels for the past 18 months, loan default rates rose quite abruptly towards the end of last year, and are now back to or in some cases above pre-pandemic levels,” Datta said.

Upstart received a slew of downgrades from Wall Street analysts at Piper Sandler, Citigroup and Stephens after the quarterly report.

Piper Sandler analyst Arvind Ramnani on Tuesday downgraded the stock to a neutral rating from overweight and slashed its price target on the stock to $44 from $230. The new price projection implies 75% downside from Upstart’s closing price Monday.

“The range of outcomes for UPST has increased, given macro uncertainties,” Ramnani said in the note. “We expect there could be further downside based on the speed and intensity of a recession.”

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