Uber lost another $1.1 billion in the third quarter of 2019, the company announced on Monday. This wasn’t a surprise: Uber lost about the same amount in the first quarter of 2019 and lost even more last quarter.
Yet the company argues that things aren’t as bad as that headline figure suggests.
To show why, Uber broke its earnings down by business area, distinguishing its core “rides” app from Uber Eats, Uber Freight, and other operations.
Uber says that, if you exclude certain non-operating expenses—mainly interest, depreciation, and stock-based compensation—the “rides” app actually earned a substantial $631 million profit. That’s enough to cover the company’s core operating expenses, the company said. But Uber’s profitability was dragged down by losses in its other businesses—mainly a $316 million loss from Uber Eats.
Of course, interest, depreciation, and stock-based compensation are real costs. So the fact that Uber looks less unprofitable excluding them isn’t going to be particularly reassuring to Uber investors.
But the reason these numbers could ultimately be good news for investors is that they suggest Uber’s core rides business might not be perpetually money-losing. If the “EBIDTA” profitability of the ride-hailing business continues to improve—it grew from $416 million in the year-ago quarter to $631 million last quarter on an EBITDA basis—the company could eventually reach honest-to-goodness profitability.
The growth of Uber’s ride-hailing business has been slowing down; it grew only 22%, year over year, in the third quarter. In contrast, Uber Eats revenue grew by 77%. So while Eats lost money, that could be because the product is earlier in its growth phase than the core rides platform. Once Eats matures, it might wind up being profitable just like Uber’s ride platform. At least that’s the story Uber is telling Wall Street.
Wall Street didn’t seem impressed with Monday’s results, however. Uber’s stock price fell about 5% in after-hours trading. Its stock price is now down to $31, down about 30% from the IPO price of $45.
For its part, Uber rival Lyft reported its own third-quarter results last week. Lyft reported a net loss of $463 million. That’s smaller than Uber’s losses, but it’s a significant fraction of Lyft’s $956 million in revenues. Indeed, Uber’s losses were larger than Lyft’s revenue for the third quarter.