Uber CEO aims to pare losses and get ‘the love back’

Above, the building that houses the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco. Uber’s share of the ride-hailing market in the US fell from 82 percent at the start of last year to 70 percent in the fourth quarter. (AP)
Updated 15 February 2018

Uber CEO aims to pare losses and get ‘the love back’

SAN FRANCISCO: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is focused on cutting the company’s massive losses and “getting the love back” after a year of damaging revelations about the ride-hailing service’s sometimes heartless treatment of its employees, drivers, regulators and rivals.
“We strive to be and should be a brand that is as beloved as Amazon and Google,” Khosrowshahi said late Wednesday during an appearance at a Goldman Sachs technology conference. “We have a long way to go, but we have to re-earn our consumer and driver trust. Just getting the love back is a very important priority for us.”
The job is proving to be even more difficult than Khosrowshahi anticipated five months ago after Uber lured him away from online travel agency Expedia to replace its embattled co-founder, Travis Kalanick, as CEO.
Khosrowshahi inherited a mess after Uber acknowledged rampant sexual harassment within its ranks and its use of duplicitous software to thwart government regulators while dealing with the fallout from a video that captured Kalanick berating one of its own drivers.
To make matters worse, Khosrowshahi discovered that Uber had covered up a computer break-in that stole personal information about millions of riders and drivers. He also landed in the midst of a court battle that pitted Uber against a Google spinoff alleging that the ride-hailing service had conspired to steal its self-driving car technology while Kalanick was running things.
“It looked messy and it was messy,” Khosrowshahi said.
As part of the cleanup, Uber last week agreed to pay $245 million to settle the trade secrets case brought by Waymo, the company spawned by a self-driving car project started by Google. The settlement came after four days of trial testimony that included a dramatic appearance by Kalanick, who fended off accusations of orchestrating a elaborate high-tech heist during more than two hours on the witness stand.
“I thought Travis was terrific,” Khosrowshahi said. “I thought he really held up well, and spoke his mind. I think that helped us get to the settlement.”
Uber didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement that gave Waymo’s corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., more stock in the ride-hailing service. Google, which is also owned by Alphabet, had already accumulated Uber stock as one of the company’s early investors.
Alphabet and other investors stand to reap big gains on their stakes if Uber files for an initial public offering of stock next year, as Khosrowshahi plans. But how well Uber’s stock fares on Wall Street will likely be tied to whether the company proves it can make money — something it isn’t close to doing now.
Uber lost $4.5 billion in 2017, widening from a $2.8 billion setback in the previous year. The results released earlier this week showed Uber pared its fourth-quarter loss by 25 percent from the third quarter, a modestly encouraging sign.
Gross revenue for the year rose 85 percent over 2016, to $37 billion.
Uber’s results are difficult to decipher because it only divulges pieces of data, taking advantage of its status as a privately held company. Khosrowshahi detailed them on a conference call with investors Tuesday, and the company disclosed some data to a website called The Information.
A person briefed on the results provided some numbers and confirmed the accuracy of The Information’s story to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person didn’t want to be identified because Uber remains a private company.
In a sign that the negative publicity surrounding its problems alienated many consumers, Uber’s share of the ride-hailing market in the US fell from 82 percent at the start of last year to 70 percent in the fourth quarter. People’s view of Uber has become “appropriately negative,” Khosrowshahi conceded Wednesday.
Those numbers underscore Uber’s tenuous position, despite its pioneering role in the ride-hailing industry that enabled it to build a substantial lead over rivals such as Lyft, said Stephen Beck, managing partner of cg42, a management consulting firm. “Their app is just a download away from people moving on to a competitor,” he said.
In his appearance, Khosrowshahi said Uber could quickly reverse its losses by retreating from less-developed markets outside the US and reducing the money it pours into expensive projects like its work on self-driving cars. That, he said, is something Uber isn’t ready to do yet.
“I am pretty confident that we can turn the knobs to make this business profitable, but it would sacrifice growth and innovation,” Khosrowshahi said.
While Uber’s losses are significant, the company appears to be on the right track under Khosrowshahi’s leadership, said Rohit Kulkarni, managing director of SharesPost, a research group focused on privately held companies. “If you draw that out further, a year from now, this could be a significant IPO waiting to happen,” he said.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.