Uber drives up prof­its in Bri­tain de­spite bat­tles with reg­u­la­tors

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Matthew Field

UBER has in­creased rev­enues for its UK busi­ness by 61pc de­spite spend­ing the year bat­tling reg­u­la­tors across the coun­try.

The ride-hail­ing app was threat­ened last year with the loss of its Lon­don li­cence by the city’s trans­port reg­u­la­tor and is­sued with sus­pen­sions in sev­eral towns and cities. Yet Uber still in- creased its rev­enues to £59.5m for the year end­ing De­cem­ber 2017, up from £36.9m the year be­fore, ac­cord­ing to its ac­counts.

Prof­its grew by £1.6m to £4.6m. Lon­don has been one of Uber’s most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional mar­kets out­side the US. The ride-hail­ing com­pany turned a profit in the UK even as it with­drew from costly op­er­a­tions in south-east Asia, tar­get­ing prof­itabil­ity ahead of a planned 2019 float.

Uber has faced a strug­gle with reg­u­la­tors over its fu­ture in Lon­don. In Septem­ber last year, Trans­port for Lon­don re­fused to re­new Uber’s li­cence over is­sues of pas­sen­ger safety, although the com­pany was al­lowed to keep op­er­at­ing while it ap­pealed. The rul­ing was over­turned by a court in June.

The com­pany has also seen sev­eral ri­vals launch in the city, all of which let rid­ers book pri­vate-hire ve­hi­cles through smart­phone apps.

Uber faces a fur­ther court date in Oc­to­ber against driv­ers who have claimed work­place rights from the com­pany. Uber has main­tained its driv­ers are self-em­ployed.

An Uber spokesman said: “We con­tinue to in­vest in ex­pand­ing across the UK with more than five mil­lion rid­ers and 60,000 li­censed driv­ers now us­ing our app. Over the last year we’ve in­tro­duced a num­ber of im­prove­ments for both pas­sen­gers and driv­ers, from 24/7 tele­phone sup­port to free sick­ness, in­jury, ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity pro­tec­tions.”

Uber is plan­ning to ex­pand its UK app to in­clude pub­lic trans­port and bike shar­ing. Its UK busi­ness also in­cludes its food de­liv­ery ven­ture Uber Eats.

Mean­while, Airbnb, the on­line hol­i­day book­ing plat­form and fel­low US tech gi­ant, re­ported it had boosted rev­enues at its Uk-based com­pany.

Airbnb Pay­ments Ltd, which ac­counts for sales of all Airbnb’s op­er­a­tions out­side of the US, China and In­dia, recorded rev­enues of $280m (£213m) last year, up from $194m. It recorded in­ter­na­tional prof­its of $1.2m and paid $282,000 in UK cor­po­ra­tion tax.

Like Uber, Airbnb is tar­get­ing an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing in 2019. The two bumper floats could see Uber val­ued at $72bn and Airbnb at $30bn.

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