Uber’s financial loss is eye-popping

2016-12-20 07:20 - Eric Newcomer
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San Francisco - Even as Uber exited China, the company's financial loss has remained eye-popping. In the first nine months of this year, the ride-hailing company lost significantly more than $2.2bn (R31.1bn), according to a person familiar with the matter. In the third quarter, Uber lost more than $800m, not including its Chinese operation.

At the same time, the company's revenue has continued to grow even after leaving the world's most populous country. Uber generated about $3.76bn in net revenue in the first nine months of 2016 and is on track to exceed $5.5bn this year, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Uber, a closely held company based in San Francisco, has stayed mum about its financial performance even as its valuation has soared to $69bn, making it more valuable on paper than General Motors and Twitter combined.

Uber's bookings - the total combined value of the fares that riders pay - were $5.4bn in the third quarter, an increase from $5bn in the second quarter and $3.8bn in the first, according to the person.

The slowdown in Uber's bookings growth can at least partially be explained by the company's decision to leave China. Uber said on August 1 that it came to an agreement with Didi Chuxing to exit China in exchange for 17.5% of the Chinese company. As part of the deal, Didi invested $1bn in Uber. Uber's third-quarter financials don't include the business in China, which were part of the previous quarterly results.

Net revenue - the amount of money Uber generates after it pays its drivers - was $1.7bn in the third quarter, growing from $1.1bn in the second quarter and $960m in the first, according to the person.

Uber's financials have leaked in dribs and drabs. The third-quarter numbers were reported earlier by the technology news site The Information. Bloomberg previously reported Uber's financial performance in the first half of this year. A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment.

The company is said to have lost at least $2bn last year and is on track to pile up a loss of at least $3bn this year. Those are rough figures that may underestimate how much money Uber is losing and don't include interest, taxes or stock-based compensation.

Here's what we do know: Uber's loss in the first quarter of this year was about $580m, according to the person. By the second quarter, the loss significantly exceeded $800m, including China. That number is likely far higher.

Even in the US, Uber's home market, the company continues to lose money. After turning a slight profit in the in the first quarter of this year, Uber lost $100m in the US in the second quarter. The loss increased in the third quarter, the person said. Lyft, Uber's largest US competitor, has promised investors that it will keep its losses below $150m a quarter.

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