Uber’s losses narrow as food delivery, ride bookings rebound from pandemic lows

Photo: Reuters

Uber Technologies Inc on Wednesday posted a narrower loss as its ride-hail and delivery businesses rebounded slightly from pandemic lows, and the company said it was well on track to reach its goal of achieving an adjusted profit by year-end.

Uber said customers in cities’ outer boroughs and suburbs had returned to its rides platform during the quarter.

Nearly complete recoveries in markets including Brazil and Australia point to leisure travel to restaurants and cultural events bouncing back quickly once the pandemic ends, with business travel returning more slowly, as many employees continue to work from home.

Shares fell 3% in after-hours trading after gaining around 6% during the day. Shares had risen after smaller ride-hail rival Lyft Inc said on Tuesday it might become profitable during the third quarter, three months ahead of a previous goal, thanks to a rebound and cost cuts.

Uber reported a loss on an adjusted basis before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $454 million, significantly less than analysts’ average expectations for a $514 million loss, according to Refinitiv data.

Uber cut costs throughout 2020, including reducing staff by nearly 30% from the beginning of the year. A focus on its core rides and food delivery business and divestments of ancillary units will allow Uber to emerge from the pandemic a slimmer company.

Adjusted EBITDA, which excludes the cost of the company’s extensive stock-based compensation and other potentially significant items, is the profitability metric Uber uses.

Uber reported $3.17 billion in total revenue in the months from October through December.

Fourth-quarter mobility revenue, largely comprised of rides, declined by 52% from last year, but at $1.47 billion was up 8% on a quarterly basis despite new lockdown measures in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

The company said it could not predict the quarter in which ride-hail volumes might return to pre-pandemic levels. Airport travel, which made up 15% of gross bookings before the pandemic, will take longer to return than leisure and business trips, Uber said.

It expected first-quarter adjusted EBITDA to be flat or down compared with the fourth quarter.

Orders at Uber‘s food delivery platform, Uber Eats, further grew during the fourth quarter, as many countries and U.S. states issued new lockdown orders, closing restaurants and prompting many people to order in.

Delivery revenue more than tripled from last year and at around $1.36 billion, grew 19% compared with the third quarter.

Uber has expanded its footprint in the competitive space and acquired smaller food-delivery rival Postmates for $2.65 billion and alcoholic beverage delivery service Drizly for $1.1 billion.

Both deals were largely stock-based, with the Drizly deal expected to close later this year.

Uber also said it had further lowered costs in the fourth quarter, with total costs and expenses dropping 14% in that period.

Following a directive by Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi to focus on the company’s core businesses, Uber has sold two cash-burning units.

The company in December sold its self-driving Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) in a $4 billion equity deal at a steep drop in valuation. Khosrowshahi at the time said the deal would accelerate Uber‘s profitability goal.

The same month, Uber also handed over the keys to its air taxi business Elevate, without disclosing the terms of the deal.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.