The Mercury News

Uber racks up losses in driver rehiring

Setback is $509M; company eyeing effects of delta variant

- By Lizette Chapman

Uber Technologi­es spent heavily to lure drivers back in the second quarter, which resulted in a wider loss than expected and raises doubts about the reliabilit­y of its labor model longterm. Shares declined as much as 6% in extended trading.

The loss before interest, tax and other expenses was $509 million in the period that ended in June, Uber said in a statement Wednesday. That’s wider than the prior quarter but narrower than a year earlier. Analysts expected a loss of $325 million, according to an average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Uber said the loss will be less than $100 million in the third quarter and that gross bookings will be $22 billion to $24 billion. The forecast is about in line with analysts’ estimates. Uber cautioned that a wider outbreak of the delta variant could change the results.

“We invested in recovery by investing in drivers, and we made strong progress,” Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowsha­hi said in a statement.

Expectatio­ns for Uber were already lessened Wednesday after Lyft, the second-largest U.S. ride-hailing company, reported a weak forecast for the third quarter. Both stocks declined during trading. Lyft did prove, however, that its business can be profitable, at least when overlookin­g stock-based compensati­on and other costs. Lyft turned its first adjusted profit in the second quarter. Uber said it’ll generate a quarterly adjusted profit by the end of the year.

Uber has been using the pandemic as an opportunit­y to expand further beyond rides. The San Francisco-based company placed a big bet on freight with the $2.25 billion purchase of Transplace last month. It also moved into grocery and alcohol delivery through acquisitio­ns, added package delivery and struck a partnershi­p with GoPuff to ferry convenienc­e store items.

“What we’re looking for is continued expansion beyond food,” said Ron Josey, an analyst at JMP Securities. “The battlegrou­nd that’s developing is to get anything delivered within an hour or two.”

Uber has been delivering meals from restaurant­s since 2014, but the pandemic dramatical­ly accelerate­d growth. Gross bookings from delivery orders in the second quarter nearly doubled from the same period last year to $12.9 billion. Growth was

muted compared with the first quarter. “The hyper growth is likely over,” Mandeep Singh, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligen­ce, wrote in July.

Second-quarter sales doubled from a year earlier to $3.93 billion, beating analysts’ estimates. The number of people using an Uber service was 101 million in the second quarter, in line with estimates.

Uber posted its first net profit as a public company in the second quarter. Income of $1.1 billion was driven in large part by Uber’s stock in Didi Global Inc., China’s largest ride-hailing company which went public in June. Since then, the

shares have declined 30% after Beijing launched a probe into the company and removed Didi from Chinese app stores.

Challenges in the ridehailin­g business persist. Many drivers quit earlier in the pandemic when demand evaporated and over concerns for their own health. In recent months, vaccines have brought riders back, but the return of workers hasn’t kept pace. Uber said in April it would spend $250 million to get more drivers on the road by doling out bonuses and other incentives. Now, the spread of the delta variant creates a new, unpredicta­ble problem for the transporta­tion business.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States