Just In Time For Its Big IPO, Uber Loses $1.4 Billion

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty

Step right up, join the fun, the headline IPO of 2019 is about to take centre stage.

Silicon Valley ridesharing giant Uber is waiting in the wings. The company aims for a $US91.5 billion ($130 billion) valuation in its imminent initial public offering, the biggest IPO in US markets since Alibaba’s 2014 debut and a giant, attention-hogging IPO in a year full of them.

I see a small note here, however, it’s probably nothing and you can ignore it. The company continues to be highly unprofitable: In a financial report filed this week, Uber said the company posted a net loss of around $US1 billion ($1.4 billion) in the last quarter.

For investors, it’s a fascinating and exciting stock market question mark about how they can walk this tech boom tight rope and maximise their bottom line. High growth, highly unprofitable, highly unprecedented: Uber is in a class of its own.

For drivers, it’s a red flag. An increasing number of Uber drivers are organising and complaining about falling wages. Drivers are by far Uber’s biggest expense and as the company keeps an eye on its bottom line — maybe even, one day, seeking profitability — it’s easy to imagine where they’ll look to find that money.

A collection of drivers across the United States are planning a strike on May 8 in order to protest low pay, lack of benefits and Uber’s poor transparency record.

Let’s not dwell on the negatives, let’s talk about the positives.

Who are the big winners for Uber’s IPO? The Saudi Arabian ruling royal family — a colourful bunch of dictators who have already had a historic week by executing 37 people, including teenagers, on charges that include protesting the government in a spree Amnesty International characterises as a demonstration of a “callous disregard of human life” — stand to take home billions and will continue to be one of Uber’s biggest underwriters.

Wow, what a wild show, good luck to all the investors!

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