Uber Lost $1.8 Billion in 2018 Despite Record Ride-Hailing, Food-Delivery Gains

That’s bad news for the company as it heads toward an initial public offering.

byStephen Edelstein|
Car Tech photo

Uber posted $50 billion in bookings for its ride-hailing and food-delivery services in 2018. However, the company still failed to turn a profit and its revenue growth slowed toward the end of last year, reports Reuters. That's bad news for Uber as the company looks to charm investors into an initial public offering (IPO) later this year.

Annual bookings were up 45 percent over 2017, according to Uber. Even then, the company's losses before taxes, depreciation, and other expenses still totaled $1.8 billion, down from the $2.2 billion loss the company posted in 2017. Uber's full-year revenue for 2018 was $11.3 billion, an increase of 43 percent from 2017.

Uber also said that gross bookings for the fourth quarter of 2018 reached a record $14.2 billion. That represents an increase of 11 percent over the previous quarter, and a major improvement from the single-digit increases posted over much of last year, noted Reuters. But Uber's reported fourth-quarter revenue of $3 billion was just two percent higher than the previous quarter, albeit also a 24-percent increase over the same period in 2017.

Uber has made a practice of publishing selected financial figures for the past several quarters rather than full financial results as it anticipates going public. The company filed for an IPO in December, shortly after Lyft made its own filing. The two rivals are now racing to become the first ride-hailing company to launch an IPO. The results of that first IPO will be a referendum on the ride-hailing industry.

Ride-hailing has been touted as the future of transportation, and Uber's reliance on freelance drivers eliminates many of the costs associated with more traditional transportation services. But despite not having to pay running costs for a fleet of cars or benefits for drivers, Uber is still losing money. The company also faces increased competition from Lyft and international rivals like China's Didi Chuxing and India's Ola, and is still working to rebuild its self-driving car program after a fatal crash.

Uber was the first ride-hailing company, and it remains the largest. That prominence, as well as past scandals, have made Uber a target for criticism. That being said, many of the issues related to Uber, such as driver wages and its services' contribution to traffic congestion, also apply to other ride-hailing companies. Uber's success or failure in going public could set a precedent for the entire industry.