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Uber is a hard pass, this portfolio manager says

Uber Stock

Call it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for ride hailing and food delivery company Uber Technologies (Uber Technologies Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials NYSE:UBER), whose stock is getting hammered this year and is now down almost 65 per cent. But don’t think the recent drop-off signals a potential bargain hunter’s dream, says fund manager Ross Healy, who argues that without earnings it’s impossible to say what a reasonable valuation might look like.

“They’re losing money and their balance sheet is starting to fall away too, and that is the worst combination for a stock in this kind of market,” said Healy, chairman of Strategic Analysis Corporation, who spoke on BNN Bloomberg on Monday.

The assault on tech stocks continues this week with names like Amazon and Alphabet falling sharply as the market prolongs its pullback on growth stocks and keeps skidding along in 2022 with little sign of a rebound on the horizon. 

The same goes for Uber, whose share price is now around $22 compared to the $60 it was at a little over a year ago. Since its heralded IPO three years ago, the stock is now worth about half its list price of $45 in May of 2019. 

But the stock price doesn’t tell much about Uber’s story since 2019, as the company has had quite the … ahem ride, with business dropping off for Uber Mobility during COVID-19 lockdowns just as Uber Eats became much more of a mainstay in everyone’s lives with the rise in take-out dining, a trend which appears to be continuing unabated.

Then, with the pandemic seemingly less impactful this year, Uber’s revenue began to climb once again — just as fears of a recession began to take hold and rising interest rates coupled with inflation fears kept pulling investors out of riskier, still-evolving stories like Uber’s.

But Healy says now is not the time for investors to be swayed by the power of a great idea like Uber, the quintessential industry disruptor, since these days what the market cares about is the bottom line.

“It’s hard to make any kind of a sensible analysis of the company [since] it isn’t earning any money, and we’re in a bear market for stocks that aren’t earning any money,” Healy said. “That’s what a bear market is — it takes those [stocks] to the woodshed first.”

“In the meantime, the stock is selling up at almost 5x its book value. So, I have nothing to hang my hat on in terms of saying here’s even a target for you on the downside, so I’m sorry about that. It’s just the reality of the situation,” he said.

Uber reported strong revenue numbers in its latest quarter, the company’s 2022 Q1, delivered in early May and featuring a topline of $6.9 billion, up 136 per cent compared to the COVID-influenced first quarter of 2021. Gross Bookings were up 35 per cent to $26.4 billion, with Mobility’s Gross Bookings rising 58 per cent to $10.7 billion and Delivery’s up 12 per cent year-over-year to $13.9 billion. (All figures in US dollars.)

“Our results demonstrate just how much progress we’ve made navigating out of the pandemic and how the power of our platform is differentiating our business performance,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, in a press release. “In April, Mobility Gross Bookings exceeded 2019 levels across all regions and use cases. There’s never been a more exciting time to innovate at Uber and we’re focused on executing our strategy to grow our platform profitably.”

Yet, the $42 billion market cap company registered a huge net loss of $5.9 billion over the first quarter, which included $5.6 billion in losses related to its equity investments in delivery company Grab, autonomous vehicle company Aurora and Chinese ride-hailing company Didi.

By an adjusted EBITDA measure, Uber said its earnings were $168 million, which looks a lot better than the negative $359 million EBITDA from a year earlier.

In response to the changing economic climate, Uber management said that it’s aiming to cut costs related to marketing and incentives and pull back the reins on hiring. 

“We will treat hiring as a privilege and be deliberate about when and where we add headcount,” said Khosrowshahi in an email to employees, according to a CNBC report. “We will be even more hardcore about costs across the board.”

Uber’s share price losses haven’t scared away all comers, however. Last week, CNBC’s Jim Cramer told investors the pullback has gone too far and that Uber should do well in a recession.

“I think it’s a great call,” said Cramer on CNBC on June 8. “This thing has come down so much. And what’s been the impediment is it’s very hard to get drivers, but with the so-called recession that’s coming, drivers are available and people are going out. People are going out everywhere.”

“I think that you can start buying Uber because their principal cost is going down,” he said.

About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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