Uber Posts Faster Growth, but Loses $1.1 Billion

on Feb8
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SAN FRANCISCO — Uber capped a difficult 2019 by posting faster growth in its ride-hailing business, even as it lost more money.

On Thursday, Uber said its revenue in the fourth quarter of 2019 increased 37 percent to $4 billion from a year ago, faster than the 30 percent growth it recorded in the previous quarter. The company lost $1.1 billion, more than the $887 million it lost a year earlier.

“We recognize that the era of growth at all costs is over,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive. “I’m gratified by our progress, steadily delivering against the commitments we’ve made to our shareholders on our path to profitability.”

The results were driven by Uber’s main ride-hailing business, with the number of trips rising 28 percent to more than 1.9 billion from a year earlier and revenue increasing 27 percent to more than $3 billion. In contrast, Uber’s food delivery business, Uber Eats, lost $461 million on revenue of $734 million.

Mr. Khosrowshahi previously said Uber aimed to make an operating profit by 2021. But on Thursday, he said the company would reach that milestone by the final quarter of 2020.

Nelson Chai, Uber’s chief financial officer, added that Uber expected to earn adjusted revenue of $16 billion to $17 billion this year as it worked to become profitable. The company also plans to cut back on the discounts and coupons it has used to grow, he said, calling them “bookings that are essentially empty calories.”

Uber had gone into retreat for much of 2019 after staging a disappointing initial public offering in May. The company, which spends a lot of money to attract passengers and drivers, immediately faced doubts over whether it could ever make a profit. Since then, Uber’s stock has plunged.

In response to its critics, Mr. Khosrowshahi has cut costs at the company and pulled back parts of its business. Last year, he laid off more than 1,000 employees and withdrew Uber’s food delivery service from South Korea. Last month, Mr. Khosrowshahi also sold Uber’s food delivery business in India to a local competitor, Zomato.

“Clearly, Uber has put out a somewhat aggressive timeline for profitability,” said Tom White, a senior equity research analyst at D.A. Davidson. “These exits are partly a function of them making sure they meet that target.”

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