This week marks the first anniversary of Uber’s public-market debut. The year has been a difficult one, and won’t get easier from here.
Uber’s shares (ticker: UBER) are down 8% year to date, and 39% since the company’s initial public offering on May 9, 2019, at $45 a share. Uber was struggling even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic—and the near-evaporation of the company’s ride-sharing business in recent weeks raises concerns that the company will be asked to address on Thursday when it reports first-quarter financial results.
In the U.S. market, Uber faces a head-to-head struggle with Lyft (LYFT), with few obvious points of differentiation for riders other than price. In Uber Eats, the competitive landscape is tougher still, with four major players, including Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates. Dreams of an all-automated fleet of self-driving cars seems far off. Before the onset of pandemic, the company was aggressively fighting against legislation in California that classifies gig workers such as Uber drivers as employees—a debate that is far from over.
The Uber story is a little more complex than that of rival Lyft, which reports results one day earlier. The recent sharp decline in demand for Uber’s Rides business has no doubt been offset at least in part by a pickup in demand for food-delivery service Uber Eats, although Eats also faces some new financial pressures as it reduces fees to help keep the struggling restaurant sector alive, while also providing additional protections for drivers.
For the quarter, the Wall Street consensus forecast is $3.51 billion in revenue and a loss of 83 cents a share. For the second quarter, the Street sees $2.86 billion and a loss of 71 cents a share. The full-year consensus is $14.37 billion and a loss of $2.48 a share.
In an April 16 announcement, Uber withdrew its previous guidance, which had been for full-year revenue of $16 billion to $17 billion, an adjusted Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization) loss of $1.25 billion to $1.45 billion and gross bookings of $75 billion to $80 billion. The company also had projected that it would be profitable on an adjusted Ebitda basis in the fourth quarter—a forecast that would seem almost impossible to reach in the current environment.
The company also previously announced that it would record $60 million to $80 million in “contra revenue” to reflect costs related to driver support, and said it would take $1.9 billion to $2.2 billion in write-downs of holdings in other ride-sharing companies.
RBC Capital’s Mark Mahaney writes in a research note that he sees bookings for the quarter ended on March 31 of $14 billion, well below consensus at $15.75 billion, with revenue of $2.8 billion and an adjusted Ebitda loss of $1.1 billion.
“What will matter is any visibility Uber has into a potential Rides demand recovery and the extent to which the Covid crisis may structurally boost demand for Uber Eats and possibly accelerate its path to profitability,” Mahaney writes in a research note. “We expect [second-quarter] Rides gross bookings to decline 50% year over year, but Uber Eats bookings to rise 45%. We do not believe Uber will issue 2020 guidance nor comment on potential [fourth-quarter} Ebitda profitability.” Mahaney keeps his Outperform rating and $44 target on the stock.
Needham’s Brad Erickson wrote in a research note last week that he sees two primary reasons Uber shares can move higher over the next 6 to 12 months. One, he thinks the company can make progress on reaching profitability for the core business. And two, he thinks Uber Eats can improve its financial profile, through a combination of industry consolidation and improved execution. Erickson kept his Buy rating and $36 target price on the shares.
CFRA analyst Angelo Zino maintains his Hold rating on Uber shares, but on Monday cut his target to $34, from $38. He expects a 35% year-over-year drop in the ride-sharing business in the current quarter, partially offset by strong growth in the Eats business. He thinks the company’s highly publicized target date for reaching break-even will be delayed by at least a year and maybe longer.
Uber shares fell 3.4% on Monday, to $27.42. The S&P 500 rose 0.4%.