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Uber CEO: ‘The era of growth at all costs is over’

Uber CEO: ‘The era of growth at all costs is over’
[Photo: Charles/Unsplash]

For years before it went public, Uber Technologies was seen as the quintessential example of an unsustainable startup that sacrificed profitability for growth. Now, as it closes out its first year as a listed company, the ride-hailing giant is signaling to investors that it can, it must, be a more responsible version of itself.

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“We recognize that the era of growth at all costs is over,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in an earnings release this afternoon. “In a world where investors increasingly demand not just growth, but profitable growth, we are well-positioned to win through continuous innovation, excellent execution, and the unrivaled scale of our global platform.”

Ironic? Maybe a little bit considering the source. But under Khosrowshahi, Uber has been practicing what it preaches in recent months, selling off unprofitable businesses such as Uber Eats in India in the hope that it can narrow some of its losses.

That strategy seems to be working. The company narrowly beat fourth-quarter earnings estimates today, reporting a loss per share of 64 cents, compared to expectations of 65 cents.

Uber lost $1.1 billion in the quarter and $8.5 billion in 2019. Again, it could’ve been worse: Analysts expected Uber to report a fourth-quarter loss of $1.2 billion loss and a full-year loss of $8.5 billion, according to a consensus estimate cited by MarketWatch. Revenue was about what analysts were expecting: $4.1 billion versus $4.07 billion.

As for growth, that’s still happening, if not at all costs. Uber said it booked 1.9 billion trips in the fourth quarter, a 28% increase over the same period a year ago. Trips for the entire year came in at just over 6.9 billion, a 32% increase over the year before.

Uber has set a goal of reaching profitability next year. Can it get there at this rate? That remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting ride.

You can check out the full earnings release here.

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