Uber gross bookings hit all-time high of $19.5B as economy reopens

Ride service ready for 'a dialogue' with Biden administration on gig worker protections

Uber's gross bookings soared to an all-time high of $19.5 billion in the first quarter, up 24% year-over-year compared to $15.7 billion as customers continue to take advantage of delivery services and ride-sharing services begin to bounce back as the economy reopens from the coronavirus pandemic.

Delivery gross bookings surged 166% year-over-year to $12.5 billion, while mobility gross bookings fell 38% year-over-year to $6.8 billion. Delivery revenue outperformed in the quarter, growing 28% quarter-over-quarter and 230% year-over-year to $1.7 billion, while mobility revenue came in at $853 million, primarily due to a $600 million expense from reclassifying workers in the United Kingdom. Trips on the platform were flat quarter-over-quarter at 1.45 billion, and 13% below the same quarter a year ago, as monthly users fell 5% to 98 million. 

While Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told analysts on Wednesday's earnings call that the company is "finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel," he acknowledged that the battle is "certainly not over."

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Beyond recovery from the pandemic, Uber and other gig-economy companies are facing a new challenge from the Biden administration regarding their use of contract workers. In addition, Democratic lawmakers in Congress are pushing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The bill is in part is modeled after the California law, AB5, that reclassified most gig workers as employees and Uber led the charge on overturning for ride-hail and food delivery workers.

In dealing with the Democratic administration Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, said on the earnings call that he sees "a real opportunity for a dialogue that can ultimately lead to a solution that gives the gig workers the protections they deserve while preserving the innovation that gives them the flexibility that they desire." 

Approximately 3.5 million drivers and couriers used the platform for work during the quarter, up 4% quarter-over-quarter but down 22% year-over-year. Merchants on the platform exceeded 700,000, with new Uber Eats additions including Smoothie King, Applebee’s, Cosmic Wings and Mr. Beast Burger and non-food merchant additions including Rite Aid and Gopuff. 

West expressed confidence that any signs of a reported driver shortage will be short-lived. 

"We are seeing encouraging signs as it relates to more drivers coming back on whether they're new drivers that we're recruiting to the platform or drivers that we're resurrecting and telling them to come back because their earnings opportunities are so high," he said. 

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Uber narrowed its net losses from $2.93 billion to $108 million, primarily due to a $1.6 billion benefit from the sale of its ATG self-driving unit. The loss includes $281 million in stock-based compensation expenses.

The company's adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) loss improved by $95 million quarter-over-quarter and by $253 million year-over-year to 359 million. The adjusted EBITDA loss for the mobility segment was $298 million, up $5 million quarter-over-quarter and down $283 million year-over-year, while the delivery segment's adjusted EBITDA loss was $200 million, down $55 million quarter-over-quarter but up $113 million year-over-year. 

Uber ended the quarter with $5.7 billion in unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. 

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Looking ahead at the remainder of the year, Uber Chief Financial Officer Nelson Chair said year-over-year comparisons for delivery will become tougher as the company continues to face "significant forecasting uncertainty in predicting post-reopening consumer behavior."

Uber executives also reaffirmed on the call that the company remains on track to reaching adjusted EBITDA and delivery segment profitability by the end of the year.

Shares of the company fell over 4% in after-hours trading following the earnings announcement.