Uber is continuing to bleed money even as it posts dramatic revenue growth.
In its first financial report since its lacklustre debut on Wall Street, Uber said Thursday that its revenue rose to $3.1 billion in the first quarter of 2019, up 20 per cent from the same time last year, beating expectations of analysts polled by FactSet. But the ride-hailing giant posted $1 billion in losses as it fights to maintain its share of the market.
San Francisco-based Uber, like its main U.S. competitor Lyft, has spent heavily on rider promotions and driver incentives to gain market share, one reason the companies have struggled to reach profitability. Both are dealing with intense competition, high costs to pay drivers, increased regulation by cites and a long, uncertain road to the development of autonomous vehicles.
“Our investments remain focused on global platform expansion and long-term product and technology differentiation, but we will not hesitate to invest to defend our market position globally,” said Nelson Chai, Uber’s chief financial officer, in a statement.
Chai added that Uber noticed less aggressive pricing by its competitors — meaning they’re not competing as hard to offer the lowest price — and that trend has continued into the second quarter.
Competing on customer service
That means Uber and its competitors will be competing more on the basis of who has the stronger brand, including average wait times, vehicle quality, positive interactions between drivers and riders and consistent pricing, said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a conference call with investors.
Uber has been aggressive about tying its various services together and is reaching new customers through its Uber Eats and new mobility products such as scooters. Those cross-platform referrals give Uber an advantage over competitors, Khosrowshahi said.
“The Uber brand is a brand that everyone knows all around the world, and we’ve already built two multibillion-dollar businesses on the brand and we think freight will be a third,” Khosrowshahi said.
Uber went public three weeks ago and its shares have been trading below its IPO price ever since. Its stock price closed at $39.80 US Thursday, down 12 per cent from its IPO price of $45. In Uber’s first day of trading, the company’s market value took a $617 million hit, the largest loss on the first day of trading by a U.S.-based company in recent history, according to Renaissance Capital.
“While I’m proud of what we’ve achieved with our IPO, I told our team that it is ultimately just one moment in a much longer journey,” Khosrowshahi said. “We have an even greater duty to create long term value for investors, our customers, our employees and or many stakeholders. We’ll do this by making Uber the platform … a one-stop-shop for the movement of people and powering local commerce around the world at a massive scale.”
Growing Uber Eats
Uber’s food delivery business — Uber Eats — grew rapidly in the first quarter, with gross bookings, which represents all the money Uber collects on the platform except for tips, doubling over the course of the year. The service raked in $536 million in revenue, up 89 per cent from the same time last year.
Asked about potential mergers in the food delivery business, Khosrowshahi said Uber will consider playing a role in industry consolidation if it makes sense for its shareholders.
“Sooner or later we will be the biggest player on a global basis,” Khosrowshahi said.
For ride-hailing, Uber’s core business, revenues grew 26 per cent in the U.S. and Canada to $1.8 billion, and 26 per cent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to $487 million. Ride-hailing revenues grew 6 per cent in Asia to $267 million, but fell 13 per cent in Latin America to $450 million.