“Historically we have priced POOL very aggressively in order to create [the] opportunity to match,” Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said. “Now the majority of the work is improving our matching opportunities.” That ends up lowering costs to the company for each ride.
The company’s loss of $1.01 billion in the first three months of the year contrasted with a one-time profit of $3.75 billion in the same quarter a year ago after the sale of overseas investments. The company lost about $478 million on operations in the first quarter of 2018.
Still, Uber reported that bookings and the number of people using its platform climbed by more than 30 percent, both signs of growth.
Uber’s steep loss shows the hurdles the ride-hailing company faces in achieving executives’ goal of eventually becoming a global one-stop shop for transportation and logistics. The company has outlined a vision for itself as a competitor with tech giant Amazon, applying its vast data trove and routing software to rewrite how goods and people move from one place to another and using computer algorithms to remove what tech sees as inefficiencies in the world.
On its quarterly earnings call, executives said that 2019 represented a year of investment, although they did not directly address the company’s losses. Analysts focused their questioning on how Uber plans to expand its footprint in the areas of ride-hailing, food delivery and freight on the heels of its IPO. Khosrowshahi said Uber was determined to prove its worth to investors.
“Our story is simple: We’re the global player,” Khosrowshahi said. “We’re the largest player in personal mobility … Our job is to grow fast at scale and more efficiently for a long, long time.”
Uber has had a rocky start since going public, an embarrassing debut for what was supposed to be one of the biggest initial public offerings in U.S. history. Its shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange priced at $45, which valued the company at roughly $82 billion, the low end of the company’s price range. But Wall Street showed its doubts, and the stock opened lower and hasn’t hit that price since.
The stock’s poor performance raises questions over whether gig-economy companies that lose billions of dollars a year are sustainable — and whether the public pressure over profits puts a greater squeeze on the millions of people who work for them. Despite an extensive leadership overhaul at Uber, investors still consider the company a risky bet.
Analysts expressed concern that as the company focuses on turning an eventual profit, fares might go up and consumer incentives to attract riders could dwindle. Uber executives acknowledged fares have risen in New York because of new caps on drivers and a city initiative requiring ride-hailing companies to provide a living wage to contractors. But they said market share there has remained steady.
Still, Khosrowshahi said, Uber won’t give up any ground to competitors who want to offer equally cheap rides as the ride-hailing giant.
“Now, if it is about dollars, we’re gonna push back as hard as anyone pushes us,” he said.