Uber claimed it was “starting to fire on all cylinders” with its highest-ever quarter of gross bookings, though its food delivery business continues to do the heavy lifting, as ride-hailing bookings remained flat.
Uber recorded $19.5bn in gross bookings — the total value of all transactions — which was up 24 per cent on the same period last year, when the early effects of the pandemic started to strangle its business.
Bookings for rideshare were down marginally on the previous quarter, and 38 per cent lower on the same period a year ago.
Uber said in an investor call that it had seen improvement in April, with gross rideshare bookings in the US increasing 5 per cent month on month.
UK gross bookings, meanwhile, had recovered 80 per cent compared with 2019 levels thanks to recent reopenings that saw bookings jump 60 per cent in the space of a week. In Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Hong Kong, rideshare gross bookings were higher than last year.
Uber’s share price was down by more than 4 per cent in after-hours trading.
A shortage of available drivers has hampered the sector’s recovery. For the first time, Uber on Wednesday disclosed that it had 3.5m active drivers and couriers working on its platform, up 4 per cent on the previous quarter but down 22 per cent year on year.
Revenue for the quarter came in at $2.9bn, below analysts’ estimates. That included a $600m accrual for costs Uber expected to bear in the future to settle historical wage claims in the UK related to a landmark court defeat over worker classification that will see drivers in the country gain extra benefits.
Discounting the accrual, Uber said its total revenues were $3.5bn, up 8 per cent year on year and exceeding analyst estimates. As has been the case for most of the pandemic, its delivery division accounted for the bulk of sales, at $1.7bn, a 230 per cent increase from the first quarter of 2020.
A one-off, $1.6bn windfall from the sale of its self-driving division helped Uber come within touching distance of a profitable quarter, recording a net loss of $108m, compared with $2.9bn in the same quarter a year ago.
Uber’s preferred measure of performance, adjusted ebitda, also came in ahead of analysts’ expectations, with a $359m loss, 41 per cent better than a year ago. Wall Street had expected a $452m loss, according to FactSet.
“Uber is starting to fire on all cylinders, as more consumers are riding with us again while continuing to use our expanding delivery offerings,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive, in a statement accompanying the filing.
On Tuesday, the company announced it would partner with rapid app delivery company Gopuff to offer convenience items through the Uber Eats app using Gopuff’s network of warehouses and delivery drivers. Uber takes an undisclosed commission on each sale.
Uber maintained its target of a profitable quarter, on an adjusted ebitda basis, by the end of the year. Rideshare demand has shown signs of a strong return in regions that have loosened lockdowns and vaccinated citizens.
As part of its earnings release, Uber shared data from Sydney and New York, two of its largest markets for rides and delivery, suggesting that food delivery gross bookings were still elevated even after reopenings, which boosted rideshare demand.
Rideshare workers across the board have shown a reluctance to take up the job as economies reopen.
Last month, Uber announced a $250m “stimulus” package of additional incentives for drivers, touting higher organic wages as high demand pushed up fares. On Tuesday, rival Lyft touted higher earnings and a greater degree of social interaction for rideshare drivers compared with dropping off food.
Uber recorded 98m active users, whether for rides or food — a 5 per cent increase from the previous quarter but 5 per cent lower than the same period last year.