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Uber launches IPO with warning it may never make a profit

Updated April 13, 2019

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Uber lost $3.03bn in 2018 from operations. — AFP/File
Uber lost $3.03bn in 2018 from operations. — AFP/File

NEW YORK: Uber Tech­no­­logies Inc IPO-UBER.N has 91 million users, but growth is slowing and it may never make a profit, the ride-hailing company said on Thursday in its IPO filing.

The document gave the first comprehensive financial picture of the decade-old company which was started after its founders struggled to get a cab on a snowy night and has changed the way much of the world travels.

The S-1 filing underscores Uber’s rapid growth in the last three years but also how a string of public scandals and increased competition from rivals have weighed on its plans to attract and retain riders.

The disclosure also highlighted how far Uber remains from turning a profit, with the company cautioning it expects operating expenses to “increase significantly in the foreseeable future” and it “may not achieve profitability.”

Uber lost $3.03bn in 2018 from operations.

The filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission revealed Uber had 91m average monthly active users on its platforms, including for ride-hailing and Uber Eats, at the end of 2018. This is up 33.8 per cent from 2017, but growth slowed from 51pc a year earlier.

Uber had not disclosed the latest user numbers before, and the figure indicates the scale of the business. Although its user base includes customers of other services and ride-sharing, the number is nearly five times the 18.6m announced by rival Lyft Inc.

Uber in 2018 had $11.3bn revenue, up around 42pc over 2017, but below the 106pc growth the prior year.

Uber set a placeholder amount of $1bn but did not specify the size of the IPO. Reuters reported this week that Uber plans to sell around $10bn worth of stock at a valuation of between $90bn and $100bn.

Investment bankers had previously told Uber it could be worth as much as $120bn.

Uber would be the largest initial public offering since that of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in 2014, which raised $25bn.

Although Uber is no longer targeting a $120bn valuation in the IPO, some stock bonuses to Chief Executive Dara Khosro­wshahi and other company executives are only triggered when that valuation is reached.

Uber will follow Lyft in going public.

Shares in its smaller rival closed at $61.01 on Thurs­day, 15pc below its IPO price set late last month, a development which has sent a chilling signal for other tech start-ups looking to go public.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019