Uber posts US$708 million loss as finance head leaves

The logo of the ride sharing service Uber in front of its headquarters in San Francisco.
The logo of the ride sharing service Uber in front of its headquarters in San Francisco.PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Uber Technologies Inc's head of finance is leaving as the ride-hailing company reported continued big losses for the first quarter, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday (May 31).

The ride-hailing company's first-quarter revenue was US$3.4 billion (S$4.71 billion), up 18 per cent from the fourth quarter, the newspaper reported. Uber's first-quarter loss, excluding employee stock compensation and other items, was US$708 million, narrower than the US$991 million reported three months earlier, the Journal said.

The company also said its head of finance, Mr Gautam Gupta, is leaving. Mr Gupta, who has long served as de facto chief financial officer even though he never earned the title, helped oversee investor calls and ran the finance team, but there have been persistent questions from employees and investors about whether he had the experience to lead Uber through an eventual initial public offering. Uber said it is now searching for a CFO who can woo Wall Street.

Uber has faced a series of public-relations crises this year. The hashtag #DeleteUber trended on Twitter as users removed the application from their phones in protest against the company's ties to US President Donald Trump. Chief executive officer Travis Kalanick left Mr Trump's business advisory board in response.

Then, after Bloomberg published a video of Mr Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver, the embattled CEO said he would seek leadership help. The company is also searching for a new chief operating officer as well as fending off a lawsuit from Alphabet over driverless-car technology.

The company's ability to boost revenue and narrow losses even amid the user protests reflects the global nature of its business - most of the app deletions took place in the US.

The first-quarter financial details and Mr Gupta's exit were reported earlier on Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal.

Uber, valued at US$69 billion, has raised more than US$15 billion in funding and has spent more than US$8 billion in its seven-year history. In last year's fourth quarter, the company generated US$6.9 billion in gross bookings and US$2.9 billion in net revenue. For all of 2016, Uber's global losses, excluding its China business, totalled US$2.8 billion. The company lost at least another US$1 billion in China in 2016.

In a note announcing his departure to employees, Mr Gupta said he is leaving to join another San Francisco start-up as chief operating officer, "to take on a new challenge".