Uber posts US$1b loss in Q1 on growing revenue

Dara Khosrowshahi talks to traders after the opening bell during Uber's IPO at the New York Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Ride share giant Uber on Thursday (May 30) reported a US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) loss in the first quarter of this year despite rising revenue and monthly users.

In its first earnings report as a publicly traded company, Uber said revenue climbed 20 per cent to US$3.1 billion from the same quarter last year, but that it lost US$1 billion.

"In the first quarter, engagement across our platform was higher than ever, with an average of 17 million trips per day and an annualised gross bookings run-rate of US$59 billion," said Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

The earnings were in line with Wall Street expectations. Uber shares were up 2.9 per cent to US$40.97 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures.

After debuting at US$45 for the initial public offering (IPO) - translating to a market value of US$82 billion - Uber shares went into reverse.

The decline came amid doubts over Uber's path to profitability despite one of the biggest tech IPOs ever.

Uber had dialled back some of its earlier ambitions for a value exceeding US$100 billion after a rocky start for competitor Lyft earlier this year.

While Uber has lost billions since offering its first rides in 2011 in San Francisco, the company is aiming to develop a global brand that helps transform local transportation.

Whether Uber can achieve profitability using this model, as it disrupts traditional taxi and transport services, is a key question.

Khosrowshahi said during an earnings call that he is proud of how the Uber team handled the IPO and that he has assured them the disappointing start is just a step on "the long journey of making Uber a platform for the movement of people and transport of commerce around the world at a massive scale."

Uber's chief financial officer Nelson Chai told analysts that 2019 would be a year of investment for the company.

Uber envisions becoming the "Amazon of transportation" in a future where people share instead of owning vehicles.

If all goes to plan, commuters could ride an e-scooter to a transit station, take a train, then grab an e-bike to complete a journey using the Uber smartphone app.

Uber also has its eyes on the sky with an Elevate project to have electric aircraft carry people between "skyports," taking off and landing vertically.

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