Uber Technologies Inc., like rival Lyft Inc., does not have a road to profitability unless it does one of two things: Get rid of drivers or raise prices.
Expect the ride-hailing giants to try to do both, now that Uber UBER, +0.00% and Lyft LYFT, +4.29% are public companies that will have to face Wall Street pressure every three months. But considering how long it may be before autonomous robotaxis are prevalent on our streets, price increases are much more likely, and may be largely hidden by the companies.
Uber, which priced its shares Thursday night and begins trading Friday morning, is the most anticipated Silicon Valley IPO since Facebook. And while many investors have been impressed by the sheer scale of its business compared to the size of rival Lyft’s — which is mostly in the U.S. and not yet as diversified — Uber’s losses are just as stunning. In 2018, Uber reported an operating loss of $3 billion on revenue of $11.3 billion, and its accumulated deficit reached nearly $8 billion at the end of last year. Uber said in its “roadshow” presentation that it expects Ebitda losses in 2019 to increase, as it continues to invest.
Both Uber and Lyft have been subsidized over the past decade and seven years, respectively, by venture capitalists and other private investors who have been willing to bet on the ride-hailing upstarts, and whose funding allowed the experiments to grow with low fares. But as public companies, that stage of their life ends now.