Earnings Watch: Uber earnings preview: Another big loss is expected, but so is cost-cutting

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Uber Technologies Inc. has lost a combined $7.4 billion in the past three financial quarters since it went public in May 2019. Analysts polled by FactSet expect more of the same on Thursday, when the ride-hailing service announces its fourth-quarter results.

They forecast a $1.2 billion loss, piling up Uber’s losses for 2019 at a staggering $8.5 billion.

Uber UBER, +2.50%  Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi insists the hemorrhaging will be over in 2021 as the San Francisco-based company targets adjusted EBITDA profitability. And he has aggressively pursued that goal in the form of three rounds of layoffs, shaving 1,000 jobs.

It’s a long and winding road, to be sure. But several analysts foresee a path to profits — with a detour through India.

That was the theme of several recent analyst notes after Uber sold its delivery operations in India last month to local startup Zomato in return for a 9.9% stake worth about $350 million. The move is Uber’s latest to shed money-losing businesses. Uber continues its ride-hailing business in India.

“While we view the delivery exit in India as a positive by itself, we also see it as another sign that we may be in the early stages of a broader rationalization in the global delivery category,” Guggenheim analyst Jake Fuller said in a Jan. 23 note that increased Uber’s price target to $45 from $40.

“With the sale of Uber Eats India to Zomato complete, the acquisition of Careem now closed, a more rational rides market, and a more streamlined organization, we are incrementally confident that Uber can achieve its goal of delivering EBITDA profitability in 2021,” JMP Securities analyst Ron Josey said in a Jan. 21 note. He maintains an Outperform rating on Uber shares and a price target of $54.

There is another interesting twist to Uber’s fortunes. At least one analyst believes the WeWork debacle has made new funding for large, late-stage private companies more challenging, and this new venture reality will benefit Uber in 2020 as a harsher investment environment takes its toll on Uber rivals DoorDash, Postmates and Didi. This will “lower the cost of acquiring/retaining customers, and drives bottom-line outperformance,” SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Youssef Squali wrote in a Jan. 21 note.

“We believe this unfolding scenario should increase investor confidence in the durability of the Uber model, and drive multiple expansion over time,” said Squali, who has a Buy rating on Uber shares and a price target of $56.

What to expect

Earnings: Of the 28 analysts surveyed by FactSet, Uber on average is expected to post a loss of 67 cents a share, up the 76-cents-a-share loss expected at the beginning of the quarter. FactSet analysts expect a loss of $1.18 billion in the quarter.

Estimize, which crowdsources estimates from buy and sell-side analysts, fund managers, academics and others, is forecasting a loss of 68 cents a share, based on 49 estimates.

Revenue: Wall Street expects revenue of $4.07 billion from Uber, according to 24 analysts polled by FactSet. Uber reported revenue of $3 billion during last year’s fourth quarter, and a loss of $900 million, or a $1.87 loss per share.

Estimize is forecasting revenue of $4.035 billion, based on 49 estimates.

According to FactSet data, of the 41 analysts who cover Uber, 28 have buy or overweight ratings, 13 have hold ratings, and none have a sell rating, with an average price target of $45.51.

Stock movement: Uber shares are down 8% since it went public on May 10, 2019, compared to a gain of 14% for the broader S&P 500 SPX, +1.50%  index during the same time period.

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