Uber Reports 91 Million Users but Slowing Growth

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Uber Technologies Inc. has 91 million users, but growth is slowing and it may never make a profit, the ride-hailing company said Thursday in its initial public offering filing. 

The document gave the first comprehensive financial picture of the company, which was started in 2009 after its founders struggled to get a cab on a snowy night. 

The filing underscores the rapid growth of Uber’s business in the last three years but also how a string of public scandals and increased competition from rivals have weighed on its plans to attract and retain riders. 

$3B loss from operations

The disclosure also highlighted how far Uber remains from turning a profit, with the company cautioning it expects operating expenses to “increase significantly in the foreseeable future” and it “may not achieve profitability.” Uber lost $3.03 billion in 2018 from operations, excluding one-off gains. 

The S-1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed Uber had 91 million average monthly active users on its platforms, which include ride-hailing and Uber Eats, at the end of 2018. This was up 33.8 percent from 2017, but growth slowed from 51 percent a year earlier. 

Uber in 2018 had revenue of $11.3 billion, up around 42 percent over 2017, again below the 106 percent growth in the prior year. 

Uber set a placeholder amount of $1 billion but did not specify the size of the IPO. Reuters reported this week that Uber plans to sell around $10 billion worth of stock at a valuation of between $90 billion and $100 billion.

Investment bankers had previously told Uber it could be worth as much as $120 billion. 

Uber will follow Lyft Inc. in going public. Shares in its smaller rival closed at $61.01 on Thursday, 15 percent below its IPO price set late last month, a development that has sent chilling signals to other tech startups looking to go public. 

Adverse events

After making the public filing, Uber will begin a series of investor presentations, called a road show, which Reuters has reported will start the week of April 29. The company is on track to price its IPO and begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange in early May.

Uber faces questions about how it will navigate any transition toward self-driving vehicles, a technology seen as potentially dramatically lowering costs but also as possibly disrupting its business model.

One advantage Uber will likely seek to play up to investors is that it is the largest player in many of the markets in which it operates. Analysts consider building scale crucial for Uber’s business model to become profitable.

In addition to answering questions about the company’s finances, Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi will be tasked with convincing investors that he has successfully changed the culture and business practices after a series of embarrassing scandals over the last two years.

Those have included sexual harassment allegations, a massive data breach that was concealed from regulators, use of illicit software to evade authorities and allegations of bribery overseas. Khosrowshahi joined Uber in 2017 from Expedia Inc. to replace company co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted as CEO. 

Uber said in its filing its ridesharing position in the United States and Canada was “significantly impacted by adverse publicity events” and that its position in many markets has been threatened by discounts from other ride-hailing companies. 

A #DeleteUber campaign surged on social media in 2017 after a public relations crisis, which Uber said in its filing meant hundreds of thousands of consumers stopped using its platform within days. 

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