Uber posts $4.5bn loss in fourth quarter despite 61% increase in sales

Ride-hailing app concluded 2017 with about $6bn in cash, 13% less than the year before

FILE PHOTO: An advertisement for the Uber car and ride-sharing service Uber is seen on a bus stop in Paris,  France, March 11, 2016.   REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Uber Technologies had a painful 2017, but the business managed to grow.

Adjusted net revenue last quarter increased 61 per cent to $2.22 billion from the same period in 2016. Meanwhile, the total value of fares grew to $11bn that quarter. It was the first full quarter under Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over the troubled business in September.

Despite a turbulent year for the ride-hailing company, sales were $7.5bn. But the company also posted a substantial loss of $4.5bn. There are few historical precedents for the scale of its loss.

Uber isn't publicly traded but has chosen to release select financial information to investors and the public in recent quarters. Last month, SoftBank Group led a $9.3bn investment deal to make itself largest shareholder in the San Francisco company. The Japanese firm is betting that more people will choose to book rides through an app instead of driving themselves and that the business will find a way to make up for losses today.


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The latest financial report shows the company continues to increase its revenue while making progress on cutting its loss. Uber’s loss is based on generally accepted accounting principles, which includes writedowns, as well as the company’s enormous legal expenses, such as the cost of defending against a trade secrets lawsuit from Alphabet’s Waymo. Uber agreed to give Waymo stock valued at $245 million to settle the suit last week.

Uber prefers to use a different number to refer to its loss: $2.2bn. The figure leaves out legal costs and stock-based compensation, as well as taxes, interest and other expenses. Uber concluded the year with about $6bn in cash, 13 per cent less than the year before.

Mr Khosrowshahi spoke with investors on a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. The company shared the numbers with technology news website the Information after the call and confirmed them to Bloomberg. Mr Khosrowshahi said on the investor call that UberEats had reached a $4bn gross revenue run-rate in the fourth quarter, which means food delivery will represent about 10 per cent of Uber’s business.

The CEO is scheduled to speak on Wednesday at a Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco, as is Bill Gurley, a former board member who helped lead the ouster of Mr Khosrowshahi's predecessor, Travis Kalanick.

Uber hasn’t made it easy to compare last year’s financials to years past. The company declined to disclose complete data for 2016 and over time has changed how it accounts for revenue. Uber lost billions in China before selling its business there in 2016 in exchange for a 17.5 per cent stake in homegrown rival Didi Chuxing.