Uber considers Bitcoin as payment, CEO says

The ride-hailing giant, which went public in 2019, is attempting to diversify its business portfolio to improve profitability

Uber chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said the company is looking for new opportunities to consolidate its business. AP 
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Uber will start accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment if it benefits the business and if there is a need for it, the company’s chief executive said.

“Just like we accept all kinds of local currency, we are going to look at cryptocurrency and/or bitcoin in terms of currency to transact,” Dara Khosrowshahi said in an interview with CNBC.

“That’s good for business. That’s good for our riders and our eaters. That we will certainly look at and if there is a benefit there, if there is a need there, we will do it,” he added.

However, the global ride-hailing giant said it will not buy the digital currency with its own cash.

“We are just not going to do it as part of a promotion. It’s a conversation that’s happened that has been quickly dismissed … we are going to keep our cash safe. We’re not in the speculation business,” Mr Khosrowshahi said.

“The upside in our company is in the business that we have built, not the investments that we invest in."

As of December 31, the company had more than $5.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents, and almost $1.2bn in short-term investments.

Uber’s stock closed 3.9 per cent down at $60.7 per share on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Uber posted a full-year net loss of $6.76bn for 2020, 20 per cent lower than in 2019, as its delivery service picked up while its ride-sharing business slumped.

Revenue during the period dropped 14 per cent on the previous year to $11.1bn.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Representations of virtual currency Bitcoin are placed on U.S. Dollar banknotes in this illustration taken May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo
Price of Bitcoin surged to $47,086.80 at 10.10am UAE time on Friday. Reuters

Uber, which went public in 2019, is attempting to diversify its business to hit profitability. Foray into the cryptocurrency could fuel its ambitions, industry experts said.

It has expanded its delivery business beyond meals. Last year, it acquired new businesses like Cornershop in Mexico for groceries and Postmates courier service (which delivers Apple products) while divesting others like ATG and Jump to structurally lower its cost base.

"These decisions have resulted in a much more focused and ultimately stronger company," the company’s chief financial officer Nelson Chai said.

Mr Khosrowshahi's latest comments have come after the electric vehicle maker Tesla announced earlier this week that it has invested $1.5bn in the biggest cryptocurrency.

Tesla said it is also planning to let its customers pay for its EVs in Bitcoin, expanding the use of the popular cryptocurrency in real life transactions.

Price of Bitcoin rose to $47,086.80 at 10.10am UAE time on Friday.

Global payments firm Mastercard is also reportedly planning to offer support for some cryptocurrencies on its network this year. It already allows its customers to do crypto transactions but outside the company’s formal network.

The US food and beverage company Pepsi is also discussing the options to buy Bitcoin with its cash.