“Cementing its place as the most heavily-lossmaking private company in the history of Silicon Valley.”
On Good Friday, when markets were closed and when the entire financial world was tuned out, and when certainly no one was supposed to pay attention, Uber, the most highly valued – at $62.5 billion – and the most scandal plagued tech startup in the world, took the until now unprecedented step of disclosing its audited revenues and losses for the fourth quarter and for the full year of 2016.
Rumors of ballooning losses for 2016 had been swirling since last summer. Bloomberg reported in August that Uber had lost “at least $1.2 billion” in the first half. In December, Uber’s loss in Q3 was said to “exceed $800 million,” according to Bloomberg, and its annual loss “may hit $3 billion.” Others chimed in as some of Uber’s dozens of investors who’re getting its financial statements share them in dribs and drabs with the media.
But on Friday, Uber itself disclosed that it lost $2.8 billion before interest, tax, depreciation, and employee stock options – the latter likely being a big chunk, as the earnings of publicly traded companies that award stock-based compensation, such as Twitter, regularly show. Translated into a net loss, including the expense for stock-based compensation? Dizzying. But Uber wisely didn’t disclose it.
The Financial Times, which reported this disclosure, mused that Uber is “cementing its place as the most heavily-lossmaking private company in the history of Silicon Valley.”
In Q4 alone, it lost $991 million before interest, tax, depreciation, and stock-based compensation, up 5% from the losses in Q3 and nearly double its loss in Q1.
However, as Uber has expanded at break-neck speed into more than 70 countries, stirring up numerous hornets’ nests of local and national laws and regulations, revenue soared over 200% from Q1 to reach $2.9 billion in Q4. For the whole year, revenue reached $6.5 billion.
This is the image of its skyrocketing 2016 quarterly revenues and ballooning losses before interest, tax, depreciation, and stock-based compensation:
Uber recognizes the entire fare of shared carpool trips as revenue, though it then still has to pay the driver. This has the effect of inflating net revenues, though it conforms to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). For trips that are not shared, it only recognizes its commission (generally 25% of the fare) as revenues.
If you burn $3 billion in cash a year, and maybe more in 2017, at what point do you run out of rope? How sustainable is the will of investors to plow billions into Uber, only to see this cash go up in smoke in such a short time?
With investors considering Uber the best thing since sliced bread, it was able to do some phenomenal record fundraising in 2016: $5.05 billion in three rounds, plus some “undisclosed” amount in another round. So how much cash is left to be burned?
A “a person close to the company confirmed” to the FT – we just love those strategically placed leaks – that Uber is sitting on $7 billion in cash. It also can borrow $2.3 billion in available lines of credit.
So that’s close to $10 billion to fuel the loss-billowing juggernaut. At the 2016-rate of cash burn, it could steam on for about three years. And at the current state of investor enthusiasm for Uber, it can still raise more – though these things can turn around on a dime.
With this kind of money backing the company, it’s no surprise that Uber doesn’t need to take rules and laws around the globe all that seriously. It has become a veritable legal-war machine to plow through any resistance, enforce its will, and get its way, although that has now turned out to not always work very smoothly.
At this point there are no public signs that investors are getting nervous about the company’s inability to stop or even slow the cash drain. And they don’t appear to have any illusions of ever turning this into a profitable enterprise.
In the end, there is always the public to bail out private investors. A company offering its shares to the public in what would be the most over-hyped IPO of all times doesn’t have to be profitable and doesn’t have to have a path to profitability for as long as they can keep raising new money to burn – see Snap, Twitter, and Tesla.
For now, in these halcyon days of endless liquidity come true, and with enough hype, everything can be made to fly for a lot longer than rational minds might have previously considered possible.
“It’s either one of the great Ponzi schemes of all time, or it’s all going to work out,” mused Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, the largest dealer group in the US, about Tesla whose valuation is “totally inexplicable.” In fact, it’s not “inexplicable” at all. Read… What Tesla’s “Inexplicable” “Ponzi Scheme” Valuation Says about the Stock Market
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Failing business model aside, I’m not a fan of Uber at all for what it does to the rest of the drivers on the road. Uber drivers seem to be the worst offenders here in DC, stopping in the middle of a major thoroughfare to pick up a passenger, making illegal u-turns across several lanes of traffic, it has gotten to the point where every single time I get in the car to go somewhere I’m in 3-4 situations with an Uber driver where it could have resulted in a serious accident were it not for my ability to stop on a dime.
I’m totally confused why this industry is unregulated, why the number of vehicles on the roads aren’t regulated and why the drivers are so horrible. When I called Geico for a hit and run involving a DC Metro Bus, they mentioned that their claims were way up. I asked if it is because of Uber and they said that was a huge part of it.
Something has to change.
It’s not an industry, it’s an app.
Funny how Uber claims that the drivers are independent contractors, yet they claim the entire amount of the fare as Uber’s income…
Good point. Ubers drivers are exploited by the company and getting worse in UK with crack down on use of uphones at the wheel which directly conflicts with yber’s business model
Many people in the masses criticize permits but they have their use for deterring bad behavior. Without permits, it’s free-for-all. It’s just a matter of time before insurance companies catch on with the phenomenon and find a way to crack down on uber drivers without proper commercial insurance.
but but… Free Markets!
but but… Government regulation is bad!
This is the trick: you need sensible regulation for free markets. (Adam Smith knew this back in 1770 or so. The 20th century libertarians – with whom I agree with most times, made up this “anarchyfreemarket” stuff, which is ridiculous its face).
The problem with regulation is that it has to be “sensible”. When it starts to get old enough/established to protect markets (incumbent businesses) against competition, which many of them do- e.g. taxi regulations?, then it needs re-work.
Yes, Uber, and probably Tesla, Twitter, are not viable businesses (Spacex, Amazon??). There will have to be significant resets or bankruptcies to resolve these. Amazon will survive somehow; one reason is it’s now too big to fail.
I was in an Uber yesterday in DC, a well-kept Jaguar no less! The guy was pretty aggressive with left turns from the middle lane, etc… This is why I don’t drive into the city, too many crazy drivers and no parking.
Totally nonsense, uber driver know the address and person they are picking up, therefore how can they stop in the middle of the street or make illegal u turn, versus hailed cabs (who get flag down), please enlighten me.
Manny – true, a taxi driver can drive just as bad as an uber driver. I think the problem is that there are just so many uber drivers. And in some jurisdictions, taxi drivers need to pass driving tests. Another Problem – and not just with uber drivers – is driving blind by GPS directions. They don’t know the streets – so they make quick lane changes and stops.
Manny – not sure why my comment is “total nonsense.” Just went out to meet a client to show them a house and an Uber Driver stopped in the middle of Independence Ave in Washington DC, in the middle of tourist hell. They absolutely do stop in the middle of the street and they absolutely do make illegal u-turns.
The fallacy in your plan you see, is where the actual person is standing when they call for the Uber. If they are in the middle of a main road like Independence or Constitution, and just left a museum and decide they want to go somewhere, they stand right where they are. And the idiot Uber driver goes to get them right where they are. See, if you don’t have to hail a cab, you don’t have to actually walk anywhere. If you need to hail a cab, you are most likely walking to an area like a corner or an entrance of a main attraction to find a cab.
I should put a camera on my dash like the bikers who have the helmet cams. The crap I see from Uber and Lyft drivers is mind-blowing.
I agree with you Melissa, at least in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. I see Uber drivers who are completely oblivious to pedestrians and vehicles as they drop off and pick up riders.
Having a street address on your GPS doesn’t make you a law-abiding driver if you’re struggling to make a living in the brave new world of e-commerce.
My pet peeve–all those folks who’ve managed to acquire a white van and are now careening around town making good on Amazon’s same day/next day delivery guarantees. Illegal u-turns are the least of it. These frantic nitwits will stop dead in traffic, punch on their emergency blinkers and dash across several lanes of moving cars to make a delivery.
And now we have a missing Uber driver in Montgomery County PA. Last seen Wednesday, local Police have released Pictures of the driver and the Year/Make/Model and license plate of her car. One more of the perils of the “gig” economy.
The executives at Uber really don’t give a rats shiny new butt about the drivers or the passengers. It’s just about how many $$ they can get out of the app before it goes belly up.
I sincerely hope they find her.
Google: Missing Uber Driver Abington PA
Change is coming–interest rates are rebounding, slowly, and the dumb money will stop pouring into start-ups in which earnings NEVER start up. EVERYONE should be alert to what is happening–NO, Mr. Martin Armstrong, the stock market is not going to 42,000 and NO, Karl Denninger, gold is not going to $300 and your money is NOT safer in a JP Morgan Chase bank. These guys must be writing books or selling BS to Hollywood or something? Change is coming very quickly–I hope you sold your SNAP? LMAO!!!
THE INSURANCE COMPANIES WILL SHUT THEM DOWN.
unless they can sell their stock in the IPO…..
Here in the UK Uber were going to regulated the same as our London Black Cabs by Boris Johnson our blond-headed buffoon. After huge Bribes David Cameron and George Osborne ,our then Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, jumped on Boris and gave Uber the freedom of London. Our Polititians stink as bad as your American ones.
Pleased enlighten us as to what regulation could stop people from driving like idiots. Are you suggesting Uber invented bad driving? I suppose if someone were to get a ticket while driving for uber they could be barred from driving for pay perhaps…
In our country the first hurdle the UBERS hit, is that they still have to have P (Passanger Transport) class license.
Drivers of P class are held to much higher standards, by enforcment officers, and the courts. As a matter of “Passenger/Public safety”.
Start getting enforcement notices or complaints supported by dashcam videos, and they take your P class away. Very quickly.
Get caught driving with a suspended or revoked P class, the vehicle you are driving gets impounded, and you get locked up. immediately. It works.
Here Ubers are still the worst on the road (as most of them have no or limited professional training), but nowhere near as bad, as in many other countries
Meh! It’s only a minus sign in front of that $2.8b. More of a feature than a bug. I am sure those rosy forecasts will be come good and the shareholders will be making out like bandits.
Or rather they will be making out like bandits once they have revved up their PR machine to chum the waters for the suckers who will be stuck with worthless stock.
Joe Public to Uber (insider) investor “does Uber work as a business model”
Uber Insider “see that Ferrari over there parked outside that sea front mansion? Both mine….. of course the model works”
Uber is not even a Tesla.
Uber produces nothing.
They are an app, some software and a legal department.
The barrier to competition is zilch.
You forgot about customer base. Once you are on the platform, there is some resistance to switch, even if it only takes 20 minutes to set up a new account elsewhere.
Until the new entrant offers savings on the first ride at which point the app will be used. When other assets start giving -ve returns, I expect to see more of the Uber type startups as money pours in for another round.
I’d like to understand how what amounts to a gypsy cab operation could ever become a sustainable business with a reliable profit margin. I can see how the app itself makes money, but only because it commands a workforce that does little more than break even. And how reliable is that supply of car owner/drivers? There must be a big turnover. Will there always be willing new recruits for what sounds like a stressful, low income occupation? Suppose the job market improves. (Okay, a big if.) Why would many people work for Uber if that happens?
Everything you want to know about Uber as a business can be found in an excellent series over on Nakedcapitalism http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/?s=uber
Let’s not forget Facebook and Alibaba trade at 14 and 18 times revenue respectively. And these are $400 Billion and $270 Billion stocks priced for amazing growth. Facebook and Google advertising growth is valued at Trillion dollars. Why is GDP growth nearly zero?
Because it is a zero-sume gam (or even negative).
Well, I mean a zero-sum game (damn keyboard).
Talking about unproductive growth, what an oxymoron.
Coincidentally, those companies (Tesla, Uber, Snap, Twitter) all have Silicon Valley roots. This presents the impression that there are more dollars than brain cells banging around against the echo canyons of San Francisco.
Who knows? Maybe it’ll all work itself out in the future.
I think the future for all these businesses is only possible in a low-interest-rate environment. Because if rates suddenly start increasing, investors will be moving away from all these companies.
Can you say, “Big-time risk off?”
A zero-interest rate world is the main thing keeping all these companies alive, and giving them the ability to keep luring speculators into their siren song, before the ship crashes against the wall.
Agreed. Once interest rates bite – it will be a new world indeed. Latecomers will get hosed. The weak competitors (Lyft?) will go belly up. I live in east bay – there are 5 restaurant delivery apps to choose from (all mediocre). No doubt we only need a couple. That’s where I see the shake-out – layoffs and consolidation.
Do you use those restaurant delivery apps yourself? I didn’t believe anybody would find them practical, but then again I’ve never bothered to get one.
The restaurant delivery apps are pretty useful if you do not mind paying about $25 a meal. I can get just about anything. What I order usually lasts for a whole day.
The mother of all shorts – the FANGS, but then fundamentals don’t matter.
Anyone remember a company called WEBVAN……………
Could have made a fortune shorting the stock, but you would have had to watch the shares soar before that…………and one would have needed lots of capital to do it……………..
The FANGS make Japanese shares look like a bargain!
Shorting made sense back in the pre-bubble days when fundamentals mattered. But now, with central banks in a race to debase, anyone who shorts these rigged, broken, manipulated Ponzi “markets” is fighting a criminal private banking cartel that can print and levitate its asset bubbles until the bubbles start imploding under the weight of their own fraud and mark-to-fantasy valuations.
Your description fits more than just the US market manipulated by more than Just the Cb’s
I dont short individual stock, I long or short the indexes depending on perception and indicators.
All these valley firms are small fry when the entire 2nd largest economy is world runs on a state-sponsored dumping.
But the PBOC and CCP can print cash, overtly and covertly, then turn Worthless NPL’s, into Worthless Equity, in Worthless State Owned Companies, by State Command.
For longer, than chumps, who call themselves investors, can borrow to fund silicone valley.
We have along way to go before people stand up and say “Hey, CNY, RMB, is not worth .001% of what china claims it is”.
Them china will have another of it massive money printing originated implosions. china pioneered those. Soon after it put printed paper Money, into use, the first time.
All my good friends are here.
Uber will stay alive for the same reason TSLA and AMZN stays alive. People are giving them money to kill existing businesses believing they would make money after the killing.
So profitable business model or NOT does not matter until the killing part is done first.
Which is exactly what china is doing. With all its bankrupt exporters.
Unlike sillicone valley, china has its own printing press
Within 20 years silicone valley will resemble the rust belt as it is today. More like Tijuana.
Nicely put. That clearly is the plan. I think these big transformative businesses all face the risk that governments will break them up one day. The populations will demand it. This is the flaw in their plan.
Plus, I’m starting to wonder if Amazon’s revenue growth will be slowing soon. I’m usually a late comer to new trends. I didn’t start seriously buying things on Amazon until two years ago. I had an “AH HA” moment when I realized they offer great selection, convenience, low prices (generally), and reliability. But now that Amazon has captured my business for the foreseeable future, I don’t see Amazon getting any additional spending from me. There’s only so much a person can spend on Amazon. Perhaps this is why they are getting into stupid things like groceries, restaurant delivery, etc., that I would never buy. They seem to be on a “desperate” search for growth at this point, investigating many low margin businesses and spreading themselves thin. Warning: this is a sample size of one.
I have to say, I was impressed with Walmart’s recent idea to give huge discounts on a select group items but only if you buy the in-store. Amazon can’t defend this because they have no physical stores. This might be successful in driving some store traffic and taking back some market share from Amazon. I could see myself hopping in the car and driving to Walmart if the discounts were big enough. I might even buy some other items (not on sale) if they were reasonably priced. Things will get cut throat in Amazon’s core retail business.
Amazon and Walmart are 2 different businesses. Walmart’s core business skill is buying in bulk and negotiating low prices. Amazon’s core skill is storing products for others and shipping those products.
Amazon’s problem comes when its vendors decide they don’t want Amazon taking a big bite out of their profits. They all have their own websites and can sell at their own prices.
That’s beginning to happen. So Amazon is working to find other markets where it can use its core competency.
An example of this can be seen by a high-end audio manufacturer in Valencia California. Schiit Audio (yes, it’s pronounced like it looks) could reach a larger audience if they sold their products through Amazon, but they only sell directly from their own website – no middle man.
They have just opened up a retail store in Newhall, CA.
They’re racing each other to the bottom. Let them fight each other to their respective deaths. It can’t happen soon enough for me.
You’re small fry to Amazon, as would I be if Amazon was in my neck of the woods. I think that the Amazon we know is just a side-business to the *real* money deals. Do you remember that in 2013, AWS (Amazon Web Services) won a $600M cloud deal from the CIA? Or that, in the same year, the Dept of the Interior awarded a total of $10B worth of IT cloud deals to ten vendors, with AWS as sub-contractor to half of them? In addition, AWS powers more e-commerce sites around the world than I think you’re aware of, Bobber. Linux magazines, in particular, seem to love them. (“Need storage? Use AWS!!1!”) Morons.
Amazon see you as something to be data-mined, so you may actually be worth more as data points than as a mere consumer. The money they make off your paper towels arriving via Prime is just one meringue decoration on a very large cake. Intelligence consultancies all over the world are buying, Amazon is selling, and you’re worried because you don’t think you can purchase more consumables from them? Amazon farts in your general direction*.
*Monty Python and the Holy Grail
As for Uber, I think they will continue to expand if governments let them. Uber is not fighting with the market because their product is clearly desirable. The fight is with government and regulations.
People talk about how undesirable the job is for Uber drivers, but if that were true they wouldn’t be doing it. You have to look at alternatives. Would you rather drive for Uber or do some other relatively low-paying endeavor like restaurant work, clean houses, roofing, etc. that requires more energy and hard work. At least you get to drive some new people and maybe some hot chicks every now and than. The low pay of the drivers is not an obstacle in my opinion.
Union busting. And forcing employees into gov’t healthcare plans. Many unseen winners no talked about.
Completely agree. You said what I was thinking, but much more succinctly…and with less swearing! ;)
I read. I laugh. I cry.
People (including Wolf) scold me when I mention I invest based on some form of NPV of expected future earnings. I’m told this is horribly passe.
1) My BRK/A are doing fine (over the last 35 years); so’s Visa.
2) I can easily afford to go to Ballagio to do my gambling (craps is a weakness) – they offer better odds than SNAP.
What the heck do I know – I’m just a retired Fortune 500 CFO.
Ah, good old Berkshire Hathaway “A” and “B”. I recall my wife joking with her father back in 1992 that she was going to buy Berkshire Hathaway stock. Although he played the market a lot, he had no knowledge of Berkshire Hathaway…”How many shares are you buying??”
“Uh, one share, Dad”.
“Well, Dad, one share costs $10, 790 dollars!”
“Oh!…..really? One share??”
I wish we weren’t joking…that one share is now $245,000 dollars.
Uber is a good deal for somebody looking for a cheap ride, but the driver is just borrowing against the equity in his car. He is not really making money. Use TurboTax or any other tax software and complete a Schedule C for the Uber business. Don’t forget about the depreciation on the car. It’s huge. The driver is probably making less than minimum wage.
One thing I notice about Uber cars here in Bay Area is that the driver is usually an immigrant, driving a new car, even as s/he tries to make ends meet. This is Bay Area where you’ll get a job if you are breathing and can mutter some software acronym or anything else like Scrum/Agile etc. The cars I usually see are either Honda Accord, Camry, Civic, Corolla or some thing in those classes. (Once upon a time, these cars were something immigrants — think H1Bs — drove because 25000$ was the loan limit. The incomes haven’t changed much in the last 10 years. But now a lot of unmarried immigrants drive BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis.)
So my guess is that the drivers are taking on huge loans and are on the hook should Uber go belly up. I wonder if somebody has done some research to see how many common people are now married to Uber and whether Uber has become TBTF.
I also wonder how some of these Uber drivers, who clearly don’t have an opportunity cost of driving people around, can afford these loans. Out of the autoloan bubble, what fraction would these drivers be?
I don’t know how things are in the Bay Area, but around here VAG (owner of the Volkswagen, Audi etc brands) has been slashing savagely both interest and requisites on loans. Right now they are the only car company here offering under 2% EAPR, not even FCA has sunk to those depths yet, and getting approved for a jumbo loan to buy a 30-40 grands car is anything but hard. That’s why you see so many SUV’s with bald tyres around: you can buy tyres with your credit card, but interests start at 11% and are non-negotiable…
BMW used to practice similar shenanigans but got cold feet last year: loans right now are over 5% and all BMW models require larger cash downpayments than last year and more comprehensive credit checks. I’ve heard now they shifted their old “damn the torpedoes” practices to the US market, but cannot confirm nor deny it.
I’ve heard of even shadier practices to “shift metal” which may help explain how those low-income drivers can afford those apparently unaffordable cars, but as I have no experience with them I’d rather not relate them.
I can’t totally agree. A lot of my drivers in the bay area have been surprisingly citizens/not recent immigrants – especially compared to the stereotype of taxi drivers. Mostly men. Some new to the area with full time jobs from other parts of the country and looking for “beer money” – as a few have told me.
I did have one recently tell me he had to keep driving because he just bought a new car and needed to pay it off (comes down from Sacramento on weekends to drive). Maybe he meant he needed the new car for his primary job M-F? Another told me he prefers Lyft because they have community gatherings for drivers and a better culture/comp. The sexist stuff that came out about Uber is causing several people I know to switch their ride services to Lyft. Wonder if that momentum will stick.
The Sacramento story is the other aspect of the story. Indeed, I have seen a few well employed people driving vans/large cars sport both Lyft and Uber. When asked a few explained that they try to get Uber/Lyft to pay for the work commute they’ll be making anyway. Then there’s the class of people who drive on weekends for the entry level fee that Uber will pay for first time riders (“beer money” people in your parlance).
The kind I am talking about are those whom you spot in the middle of work day. With the horrible commute times and over employment (presence in offices is marked by snitches by way of photos and walk bys), most people I know would rather sit at their desks than leave office even for lunch. In such an environment, I’d think it is unlikely a well employed fellow will go drive Uber in the middle of the day.
I wonder what Uber’s cash burn is. In addition to excluding stock compensation, according to Bloomberg it excludes “certain real estate investments and automobile purchases.”
These are likely significant cash expenditures, which, if they continue, will likely mean Uber will have to get more equity investments sooner than looking at the operating losses would suggest.
STOCK VALUATION =PRESENT VALUE OF FUTURE FREE CASH FLOWS+ (LIQUIDATION) BOOK VALUE
The odds of UBER,TSLA, NFLX or AMZN and others ever generating enough free cash flow to justify their current stock prices is almost zero.
UBER plays all kinds of games with their accounting ,some of which has not been publically disclosed.
TSLA will inevitably generate huge competition from ALL other car makers.Unless it can develop battery technology far superior to others and far superior to its current batteries.,it will not be competitive and will go out of business.
NFLX will continue to generate negative free cash flows unless it is able to gain a significant foothold into China ,The odds of that happening are very low.It plays bookkeeping games in estimating the longevity of its content.
AMZN does generate significant free cash flows from its cloud computing division.BUT it has never and is NOT generating positive free cash flows from its huge retail operations,when adjusting for its OFF_BALANCE sheet items.
I do buy from AMZN ,but often find lower prices from other websites.
What do these and other companies have in common.A market valuation that has been pumped up by the FED .As long as the markets have confidence that the central banks are still in control valuations can remain absurdly high.Remember the old statement attributed to John Maynard Keynes ,”markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.
Most other viewers are afraid to short stocks.I ,on the other hand consider shorting an important part of my trading activity
All of the above stocks (UBER is not publically traded) are prime shorts.IMOP the probability that many stocks such as those cited above will trade significantly lower in the next 6 months.
“..in the next 6 months.” That’s like reading tea leaves.
I don’t disagree, but the puts in those you listed are significantly more expensive compared to puts in QQQ, or FB, or Goog; when in the end they ALL end up in the same place (6 months or otherwise). Big moves take time.
Meanwhile, subprime lending is booming – until the chickens come home to roost, again. We’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends.
Apparently, investors have lost all basic and/or fundamental financial insight when investing – such as P/E ratios or NPV. Take Tesla. Never made a dime, looses a couple of 1000 US$ on each car sold but values higher than General Motors on the stock market. Amazon? Same story. Fracking Cies? Writing red ink for years now, only break even at oil prices above 70 US$/barrel. Today, Uber. All those Cies are bubbles about to explode, but “investors” keep throwing good money after bad money as if there is no tomorrow. Somethings gotta give, and the end result won’t be nice.