Uber Reports Record Ridership and Second Straight Quarterly Profit


Uber on Tuesday reported financial results that showed its business was continuing to steadily chug along — and even turn a profit — as more riders and drivers used its platform than ever before.

The company had $9.3 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter, lower than Wall Street investors expected but an 11 percent increase from a year earlier, and generated $221 million in net income. That was Uber’s second straight quarterly profit on the strength of its own business operations — rather than from its investments in other companies — a milestone for a company that had long faced questions about its profitability.

Other technology companies have endured mass layoffs and nagging questions about their businesses during the recent economic downturn, but Uber has generally produced consistent, positive results over the last year. Its worst days came early in the pandemic, when travel ground nearly to a halt and drivers left the platform.

The 6.5 million drivers who ferried passengers and food around the world in the past quarter was a record, Uber said. The company said improvements it had made to the driver experience — such as showing drivers a passenger’s destination and how much the driver would earn before accepting a ride — had buoyed interest in working for Uber.

Passengers took 2.4 billion trips on Uber in the quarter, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier. In October, Uber recorded a record number of monthly trips.

“These results demonstrate that Uber continues to drive profitable growth at scale — and why we believe we’re well positioned for the journey ahead,” Dara Khosrowshahi, the company’s chief executive, said in prepared remarks.

The biggest threat to Uber’s business are labor disputes it faces around the country. Uber drivers are classified as independent contractors rather than employees, a distinction that saves the company money because drivers must pay their own expenses and are generally not provided health insurance or a minimum wage. Uber says drivers appreciate the flexibility of being independent, rather than having to sign up for shifts.

In recent years, labor activists in states like Massachusetts, California and New York have tried to chip away at that business model, contending that it exploits drivers. A challenge to a California law that voters passed in 2020, giving drivers limited benefits but precluding them from being classified as employees, is set to be heard by the state’s Supreme Court. If the court overturns the law, that will have significant ramifications for Uber’s business.

With its core business doing well, Uber is moving into other sectors and regions. Mr. Khosrowshahi said the company was making “good progress” in expanding into countries like Spain, Japan and Italy. It took Uber One, its monthly subscription service, to 18 countries last quarter, and entered a partnership with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, to allow passengers in Phoenix to request Uber rides from autonomous vehicles.

On a call with investors Tuesday, Mr. Khosrowshahi struck an optimistic tone about labor pressures.

“We can operate under any regulatory framework,” he said, but “most countries, most states are moving in the direction of flexibility plus benefits and protections.”


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