Uber losses narrow as delivery growth outpaces fall in ride-sharing

Key Points
  • Uber's losses are narrowing as delivery growth continues to outpace a drop in ride-sharing revenue.
  • The company reported mixed Q4 2020 earnings on Wednesday, beating expectations on loss-per-share but falling short on revenue, according to Refinitiv estimates.
  • For all of 2020, Uber's net losses amounted to $6.77 billion, around a 20% improvement from a staggering $8.51 billion loss in 2019.

In this article

Uber Eats delivery
Jonathan Raa | NurPhoto via Getty Images

Uber's stock fell more than 3% after the bell on Wednesday as the company delivered mixed fourth-quarter earnings results, as its ride-hailing business slowly recovers and its delivery business booms. Nonetheless, the company is still losing about $1 billion a quarter on a GAAP basis.

Here's how Uber did versus expectations:

  • Loss: 54 cents per share, versus 56 cents expected, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.
  • Revenue: $3.17 billion versus $3.58 billion expected per Refinitiv.

Overall, Uber lost $968 million on a GAAP basis during the quarter, an improvement from a year ago when losses amounted to $1.1 billion. For all of 2020, Uber's net losses amounted to $6.77 billion, around a 20% improvement from a staggering $8.51 billion loss in 2019.

Here's how Uber's largest business segments performed in the fourth quarter of 2020:

  • Mobility (gross bookings): $6.79 billion, down 50% from a year ago.
  • Delivery (gross bookings): $10.05 billion, up 130% from a year ago.

While delivery is still way ahead in gross bookings, in terms of revenue Uber's core ride-hailing business has slightly surpassed delivery for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started..

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on an earnings call Wednesday that Uber sees "many many opportunities" in the mobility segment as different regions recover from the pandemic. Timing for a full-blown recovery of the mobility business is highly dependent on when cities open up again, he added.

In August last year, Uber acquired a marketplace tech company, Autocab, that connects riders with local taxi operators. Khosrowshahi suggested that as travel and commuting begins to increase, taxis will be looking to tap into demand and Uber can benefit.

The CEO worried whether Uber would have enough drivers to meet the demand he expects to encounter in the mobility segment as the pandemic wanes.

Earlier this month, the company announced plans to acquire on-demand alcohol delivery app Drizly, which the company plans to integrate into Uber Eats, its food-delivery service. According to a statement from Uber, the deal was valued at $1.1 billion in stock and cash combined. (The companies did not break down the portion of the deal done in stock versus cash.)

Uber and Drizly CEOs on stock and cash acquisition deal
Uber and Drizly CEOs on stock and cash acquisition deal

In its update to shareholders Wednesday, the company said that restaurants on Uber Eats exceeded 600,000 in the fourth quarter, with the addition of Union Square Hospitality Group establishments, Chipotle locations in the UK, Wings Etc. and many others.

Deliveries via Uber include more than hot restaurant meals, too. The company is scaling its non-food deliveries after acquiring Cornershop in Mexico for groceries, and Postmates' courier service which offers deliveries from Apple, among others. In the last quarter of 2020, Uber partnered with retailers as far ranging as H&M in Canada and Seiyu grocery and department stores in Japan.

According to Edison Trends research evaluating transaction data from July 1, 2019 through October 13, 2020, Uber Eats food deliveries represent about 35% of the overall market in the U.S. after the company acquired Postmates. Uber Eats lags DoorDash, but is more popular than the previous food delivery leader Grubhub and emerging players like ChowNow and Slice.

Last quarter, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi talked up the company's membership and advertising businesses, and said in select U.S. cities Uber was seeing glimmers of recovery from the pandemic.

Uber Pass and Uber Eats Pass had at that time racked up more than 1 million paying members. Now, the company boasts more than 5 million members, according to the company's fourth quarter note to investors.

Khosrowshahi said Wednesday that as Uber gets a higher percentage of customers who pay for memberships over time, he expects marketing costs to come down. The company is still early in development of Eats Pass, he noted, and will focus on "improving restaurant selection" to win new customers and members over.