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The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Pandemic Pushes More Food Delivery, Fewer Trips for Uber

2 min read
Feb 11, 2021
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Like the line from Charles Dickens’ book “A Tale of Two Cities,” it’s been the best of times and the worst of times for two business sectors at Uber. On the one hand, the pandemic has pushed the best of times for Uber’s delivery business, growing 130% in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

On the other hand, it’s been the worst of times for Uber’s ride-hailing unit as business dropped 47% during the same time period. The bright side of those losses is that business from rides, for the first time since the pandemic started, slightly exceeded delivery.

The results were announced in Uber’s earnings report that was released on Wednesday. Even with the increase in its delivery business, Uber had a net loss of $6.77 billion over 2020 and an adjusted loss of $454 million. While that’s a huge yearly loss, it’s still a 20% improvement from 2019 when the company lost $8.51 billion.

Uber’s stock dropped almost 4% in after-hours trading following the report.

“While 2020 certainly tested our resilience, it also dramatically accelerated our capabilities in local commerce, with our delivery business more than doubling over the year to a nearly $44 billion annual bookings run-rate in December,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in the report. “With two global businesses stitched together by world-class tech and increasingly valuable membership programs, we are more focused than ever on making people’s lives a little bit easier—helping them go wherever they want and get whatever they need.”

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Uber’s shares of stock performed a bit better than expected, losing 54 cents per share rather than the 56 cents per share that was expected. However, the company was expected to bring in $3.58 billion in revenue. Instead, it brought in $3.17 billion. Uber lost $968 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, showing an improvement from the fourth quarter of 2019 when it lost $1.1 billion.

Even with the losses, Uber still thinks they are on the right track to achieve profitability goals the company has set for 2021.

“We made some big moves this year, acquiring businesses like Cornershop and Postmates while divesting others like ATG and Jump, and structurally lowering our cost base,” Uber CFO Nelson Chai said in the earnings report. “These decisions have resulted in a much more focused and ultimately stronger company. In Q4 we continued to deliver improving Adjusted EBITDA performance, up $171 million quarter-over-quarter, and remain well on track to achieving our profitability goals in 2021.”