[By Lora Kolodny]
Uber on Monday acknowledged, for the first time, that the novel coronavirus poses a material risk to the company’s business.
Early last month, as SARS-CoV-2 began to take a toll on human health and industry in China and beyond, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC that the company didn’t anticipate the virus would impact its overall business.
During a Squawk Box interview on February 7, he said: “We’re not seeing a significant effect on the business overall. Where we see an effect is in North Asia. For example, business in Hong Kong, airport business is down pretty significantly, from an overall standpoint with our portfolio it’s not material in any way.”
In its 2019 annual financial filing on Monday, however, Uber told a different story, cautioning investors that its number of platform users could decline or fluctuate materially due to many factors including: “a pandemic or an outbreak of disease or similar public health concern, such as the recent coronavirus outbreak, or fear of such an event.”
Uber specifically mentioned the coronavirus five times in the filing. It said the epidemic (also known as COVID-19) could disrupt its operations outside the U.S. or the operations of companies in which it holds a minority stake. It also said that the epidemic, or others like it, could disrupt Uber’s supply chain for “new mobility” offerings like dockless and electric bikes and scooters.
Uber shares dipped by about 3% to close at $32.85 on Monday.