Uber Freight’s bookings climb, but an earnings benchmark slides

Uber Freight’s gross bookings rose 55% in the first quarter, but its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, already negative last year, sank even further.

EBITDA for the Freight segment came in at negative $64 million, down from negative $29 million last year. In an earnings statement that offered few details or comments on the segment, Uber Technologies, the parent corporation, did note that during the quarter, more than 10,000 “relief loads of critical goods … booked on the shipper platform in the U.S. were hauled at cost.”

In the Freight segment, Uber defines gross booking as the “total dollar value, including any applicable taxes, tolls and fees.” That figure rose to $198 million from $128 million in the first quarter of 2019.

On an earnings call with analysts, there were only cursory references to the Freight division in the discussion by management and no questions on the division from analysts.

However, in the earnings statement, Uber did say the Freight sector had “improved load bundle and multi-stop load product features” and “added improvements to the Uber Freight application that are intended to improve match of available loads with available carriers.”

Overall, Uber saw an 18% increase in revenue, powered by a 121% jump in revenue in its Uber Eats division following the start of the pandemic.

On the call, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that its Eats division is now running at an 89% year-on-year growth rate. Its adjusted net revenue for the quarter was $527 million, up from $239 million last year. 

Meanwhile, the Rides division did manage to eke out a small revenue gain of 4%, up to $2.475 billion from $2.377 billion last year. However, its gross bookings were down 5%. 

But it was the Rides division that came in with positive EBITDA in the quarter, recording $581 million in that category, up 203%. Eats recorded negative EBITDA of $313 million, just about 1% wider than in the first quarter of 2019.

On the call, Khosrowshahi said there had been a “tremendous increase” in restaurants signing up to have food delivered by Uber Eats, including a new “willingness of fine dining establishments to sign up for delivery.”

“We believe these trends are here to stay and will result in expansion of the entire category,” he added.

Wall Street’s reaction to the overall picture at Uber was positive. At approximately 6:15 p.m., Uber stock was up about 6.7%, despite the fact that the net loss attributable to the company was $2.9 billion. That included some writedowns and other tax impacts, but even without those, the loss would have been $1.1 billion. A year ago, the full net loss under GAAP rules was a little more than $1 billion.

The number of what Uber calls “monthly active platform consumers” rose 11% to 103 million, up from 93 million.