Notes from Uber’s earnings call

Uber released their 2019 Q2 results and earnings today. Below are a few things that are worth noting to me

Take rate

Uber defines take-rate as adjusted net revenue divided by Gross Bookings. Basically it is how much Uber takes out of your trip’s fare. Compared to Q2 2018, all take rates went down


Q2 2018Q2 2019
Ridesharing Take Rate21.86%18.99%
Uber Eats Take Rate12.4%9.95%
Total Core Platform Take Rate20.96%17.20%

Part of the reason for the drop in take-rate is the rise of Excessive Driver Incentives. For instance, Uber Eats’ Excessive Driver Incentive this quarter went to 43% of the revenue, compared to 36% in Q2 2018.

Source: Uber

Story of Growth?

It’s no secret that Uber is not profitable and likely won’t be for a while. Their story is one of growth, which is not the case in this quarter as far as I am concerned


Gross BookingsCore Platform Gross BookingsMonthly Active Platform Consumers
Q2 2019 YoY Growth29.67%30.44%30.26%
Q2 2018 YoY Growth48.64%47.92%33%

TripsAdjusted Net RevenueCore Platform Adjusted Net Rev
Q2 2019 YoY Growth35.02%12%7%
Q2 2018 YoY Growth39.71%58%54%

Every metric saw a smaller growth this quarter compared to last year. I do get the laws of big numbers, but when your story is one of growth, this may raise a few concerns.

Among important markets, Latin America saw a 24% decline this quarter despite Buenos Aires becoming the fifth largest city based on trips

Spectacular loss

Uber reported a $5.5 billion loss from Operations. If we take away the stock-based compensation, the loss is still $1.4 billion. While revenue grew by 31%, the operational loss increased by some 89%.

Thoughts

In my opinion, there is nothing in the earnings call from Uber that conveys something remotely close to a clear path to profitability. The story of growth is challenged in this quarter. Perhaps, this is just a bad quarter and the next ones will be better. Or worse. Who knows? Self-driving cars are years and years away, not even 5 years from now. Uber also faces heightened competition in food deliver like Post Mates or Door Dash, companies that attracts big private money as well.

Uber’s Earnings – Is It On The Right Track?

Uber released its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company. Let’s take a look how they did.

First of all, I have to say that reading Uber’s earnings isn’t a straightforward task. They make it incredibly confusing and complex. For instance, there are multiple variables concerning the company’s money-generating ability such as Bookings, Revenue, Core Platform Adjusted Net Revenue, Adjusted Net Revenue. I wish they could make it easier for the audience to absorb the information.

The company lost more than $1bn in the first quarter mainly due to bigger cost of revenue and S&M expense

Source: Uber

Bookings, revenue and net revenue increased, but at a much slower clip than Q1 2018

Source: Uber
Source: Uber
Source: Uber

Monthly trips per user are stagnant while contribution margin is negative

Source: Uber
Source: Uber

Uber Eats revenue grew by 89%, but Uber tripled the driver incentives for the segment

Source: Uber
Source: Uber

In terms of segments, Vehicle Solutions and Latin America market performed poorly compared to Q1 2018

Source: Uber

Ride-sharing’s revenue grew while incentives contracted; which is good news

Source: Uber

Thoughts

Uber seems to be a story of contradiction. While the CEO claimed that “Sometimes simplicity is a beautiful thing”, the business, by no means, is presented in a simple fashion. It’s complex and the terms used by the executives don’t necessarily facilitate easy understanding.

Uber CEO also said “Our job is to grow fast at scale and more efficiently for a long, long time.” Bookings, users and all metrics increased indeed. Yet, as presented above, they grew at a slower clip than one year ago. The tripled incentives used to fuel growth in Uber Eats aren’t exactly evidence for the efficiency he mentioned, and neither is the S&M expense.

The company lost $1bn and the business model doesn’t seem to change much. Also, I don’t believe in the short term feasibility of autonomous vehicles’ impact on Uber. It’s unclear how the company can tackle the profitability question. On the earnings call, Dara mentioned competing on brand and products instead of pricing with competitors. Well, whether that plan comes into beings still remains to be seen.

What I learned from Uber S-1

Its filing is packed with a lot of information. Below are my take-aways so far from reading it

It’s doing a lot of things

Apart from the ride-hailing business that it has been known for, Uber also offers Uber Eats, Uber Freights and New Mobility, including e-bikes, e-scooters. Additionally, it has been investing in autonomous driving cars as well.

Personal Mobility

In the quarter ended December 31, 2018, the average wait time for a rider to be picked up by a Driver was five minutes.

The rapid growth and scale of our Ridesharing products, which to date have accounted for virtually all of our Personal Mobility offering, demonstrates the size of our opportunity:

• Revenue derived from our Ridesharing products grew from $3.5 billion in 2016 to $9.2 billion in 2018.

• Gross Bookings derived from our Ridesharing products grew from $18.8 billion in 2016 to $41.5 billion in 2018.

• Consumers traveled approximately 26 billion miles on our platform in 2018.

Uber Eats

Our Uber Eatsoffering allows consumers to search for and discover local restaurants, order a meal at the touch of a button, and have the meal delivered reliably and quickly. We launched our Uber Eats app just over three years ago, and we believe that Uber Eats has grown to be the largest meal delivery platform in the world outside of China based on Gross Bookings. For the quarter ended December 31, 2018, the average delivery time was approximately 30 minutes.

Of the 91 million MAPCs on our platform, over 15 million received a meal using Uber Eats in the quarter ended December 31, 2018, tapping into our network of more than 220,000 restaurants in over 500 cities globally.

Uber Freights

We serve shippers ranging from small- and medium-sized businesses to global enterprises by enabling them to create and tender shipments with a few clicks, secure capacity on demand with upfront pricing, and track those shipments in real-time from pickup to delivery. We believe that all of these factors represent significant efficiency improvements over traditional freight brokerage providers. Since Uber Freight’s public launch in the United States in May 2017, we have contracted with over 36,000 carriers that in aggregate have more than 400,000 drivers and have served over 1,000 shippers, including global enterprises such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Niagara, Land O’Lakes, and Colgate-Palmolive. Uber Freight has grown to over $125 million in revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2018

Impressive growth has slowed down

Really impressive growth, but a further look reveals that the growth seems to slow down

Their market map indicates that there is not much room for further horizontal expansion. What Uber can do is to dig deeper in each market to gain more market share. Uber said that as of the quarter ended December 31st, 2018, 74% of their trips and 52% of their Gross Bookings were from outside of the US.

It hasn’t made money operationally yet

Operationally, Uber hasn’t made any money. A positive sign is that their revenue grew faster than their operating loss. In 2018, their operating loss was more or less at the same level as it was in 2016 even though revenue grew significantly in the same period

Regulations, Regulations, Regulations

Throughout the filing, regulatory challenges are repeatedly mentioned and for a good reason. Uber’s struggle with authority bodies around the world has been well documented. Below is what Uber said specifically how regulations restrict their ride-sharing operations in a few countries

We plan to grow our current SAM by expanding further into our six near-term priority countries, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Spain, where our ability to grow our Ridesharing operations to scale is currently and may continue to be limited by significant regulatory restrictions

In 2018, we derived 24% of our Ridesharing Gross Bookings from five metropolitan areas – Los Angeles, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States; London in the United Kingdom; and São Paulo in Brazil. Over the same period, we generated 15% of our Ridesharing Gross Bookings from trips that either started or were completed at an airport, and we expect this percentage to increase in the future.

If some regulations are imposed in those important markets or around airports, however likely or unlikely, it may meaningfully affect Uber’s revenue.

Another aspect related to laws is how Uber classifies its drivers. Here is what it said specifically on the matter

Our business would be adversely affected if Drivers were classified as employees instead of independent contractors

If politicians in the markets where Uber has operations decide to force the company to treat its drivers as employees and give them minimum wage, it may be an issue

Culture

The first of the norms Uber laid out in “How We Approach The Future” section reads: “We do the right thing. Period”. Not really surprising, but a welcoming sign from a company that endured a public backlash symbolized by the hashtag #DeleteUber not so long ago.

In the filing, Uber promises to “release a transparency report, which will provide the public with data related to reports of sexual assaults and other safety incidents claimed to have occurred on our platform in the United States.” this year. Another welcoming sign.

Furthermore, unlike other tech companies, Uber won’t have dual share structure which is implemented to give the founders, usually, more voting rights. For example, Mark Zuckerberg has more than half of the voting rights at Facebook.

Their stakes in strategic partnerships

In August 2016, we completed the sale of our operations in China to Didi in exchange for an approximate 18.8% interest in Didi, which, based on our current information, we estimate to be 15.4% as of September 30, 2018. In February 2018, we consummated a joint venture with Yandex whereby we and Yandex each contributed our operations in Russia/CIS to a joint venture which we refer to as the Yandex.Taxi joint venture. We received a 38.0% interest in the Yandex.Taxi joint venture at the closing of the transaction, which, based on our currently available information, we estimate to be 38.0% as of December 31, 2018. In March 2018, we completed the sale of our operations in Southeast Asia to Grab in exchange for a 30.0% interest in Grab, which, based on our currently available information, we estimate to be 23.2% as of December 31, 2018. We measure our interest in each of our minority-owned affiliates based on the outstanding shares of capital stock on an as-converted basis but without taking into account securities exercisable or exchangeable for shares of capital stock or its equivalent (including outstanding vested or unvested stock-based awards and any reserved but unissued stock-based awards under any equity incentive plan of our minority-owned affiliates).

Its business deals with Google

According to the filing, Uber paid Google from Jan 1, 2016 through December 31, 2018, $631 million, $70 million and $58 million for Marketing & Advertising (Ads), technology infrastructure & enterprise services (which I believe is Google Cloud Platform), and Google Maps respectively.