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Uber Posts Better-Than-Expected Earnings

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Key Takeaways

  • Uber posted better-than-expected earnings as bookings surged
  • Uber’s profits were boosted by expense reductions including layoffs
  • Uber CFO said the company will provide an update on returning capital to shareholders next week.

Uber Technologies Inc. (UBER) on Wednesday posted better-than expected fourth quarter earnings. However, the Uber stock in early trading slipped as much as 4% but recovered to make up the losses, perhaps on the chief financial officer (CFO)’s hints of an impending stock buyback to be announced next week.

By 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Uber stock was up slightly at about $70.50 for the day. Despite wobbling early in the day, Uber shares have more than doubled in value over the last year.

Uber reported $9.9 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2023, up 15% from the same quarter a year ago. That growth was supported by a 22% increase in gross bookings year-over-year (YoY) and record adjusted EBITDA margin of 3.4%, rising from 2.2% the previous year.

“Q4 was a standout quarter to cap off a standout year,” Uber Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dana Khosrowshahi said in a press release. “Our consumer base is now bigger and more engaged than ever… And for the second consecutive quarter, Gross Bookings accelerated year-over-year.” Khosrowshahi said these “strong top-line trends, combined with continued rigor on costs,” led to a year of “sustainable, profitable growth” for Uber.

But the news that probably made investors cheer came from the CFO. “We plan to provide an update on returning capital to shareholders as part of a broader capital allocation framework at our Investor Update next week,” said CFO Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah.

Net income of $1.4 billion for the quarter in fact includes a $1 billion discount to the value of Uber’s stock holdings, which the company explained as a “tailwind (pre-tax) primarily due to net unrealized gains related to the revaluation of Uber’s equity investments,” the company reported. Some of Uber’s largest holdings include Didi Global Inc. (DIDIY), Grab Holdings Ltd. (GRAB), and Aurora Cannabis Inc. (ACB).

For the full year, net income of $1.89 billion swung from a 2022 loss of $9.14 billion, taking into account a significant discount to the company’s equity holdings. Year-on-year gross bookings were up 19% and revenue was up 17% in 2023.

“Income from operations improved [quarter-over-quarter] due to improved operating performance and lower stock-based compensation expense,” Mahendra-Rajah said.

Uber’s profitability was driven in part by expense reductions, including layoffs; in prepared remarks, Uber’s CFO suggested the cost-cutting may not be over yet.

“For the full year 2023, net headcount was down 7% YoY. We expect to demonstrate further operating leverage over the coming quarters through headcount discipline.”

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