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Shaking off Omicron, Uber for Business recovery accelerates

Despite a negative effect from the Covid-19 Omicron variant in the beginning of the first quarter, Uber’s Uber for Business gross bookings of US$1.2 billion for the period were only slightly below the prior quarter’s $1.3 billion, the company reported on Wednesday. The first-quarter figure represents a 91 per cent year-over-year improvement.

Managed Uber for Business, which is the actively managed portion of the unit through Uber’s account managers and sales teams, representing 27 per cent of Uber for Business gross bookings. The overall unit reported strong year-over-year growth in both rides and delivery gross bookings “as corporate mobility and delivery use cases continue to grow,” according to the company.

During the quarter, Uber also added its Uber One membership program to its Uber for Business platform, “which serves 170,000 organizations worldwide, including 60 per cent of the Fortune 500,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement, adding that it can be used as an employee perk. “We see substantial runway for membership adoption through this channel.”

In addition, the company rolled out Uber One internationally in Germany and Mexico and anticipates “many more launches coming soon.”

Uber’s first-quarter gross bookings grew 35 per cent year over year to $26.4 billion, with mobility gross bookings up 58 per cent to $10.7 billion and delivery gross bookings up 12 per cent to $13.9 billion. On a sequential basis, mobility bookings declined 5 per cent, driven by “typical seasonal trends and impacts from the omicron variant”.

“Our mobility business reached an all-time high adjusted [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation] margin in Q1, despite higher gas prices and continued competition for labour,” Khosrowshahi said. “Further, in April, we reached post-pandemic highs for mobility gross bookings as well as active drivers.”

Trips during the quarter grew 18 per cent year over year to 1.71 billion – about 19 million per day, on average – according to the company, but were down 3 per cent from the prior quarter. Monthly active platform consumers increased 17 per cent year over year to 115 million from 98 million in Q1 2021.

First-quarter revenue grew 136 per cent year over year to $6.9 billion. The company’s net loss was $5.9 billion, which includes a “$5.6 billion headwind (pre-tax) relating to Uber’s equity investments”.

Revenue in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in Q1 2022 increased to $1.1 billion, following business model changes in the UK worth $200 million. Revenue from the same quarter last year was hit by a $600 million accrual made for the resolution of historical claims in the UK relating to the classification of drivers.

The company’s Wednesday earnings call was a question-and-answer session only, since Uber released prepared remarks ahead of the call. Khosrowshahi noted that the company anticipated the need to increase the number of drivers on the platform last year, and “leaned in very aggressively” with incentives. The company followed that up with product innovations to help drivers earn sooner.

“We have pivoted the company to being earner-centric, innovating for earners, thinking about the earner experience, treating earners with respect and dignity, and building for them versus building just for the company,” he said.

One of those innovations is Uber’s “upfront fare,” which will allow drivers to see a customer’s destination in advance of accepting the trip. Pricing partially will be based on the value to the driver of a potential return fare. If it’s a trip to the “outskirts of a neighborhood, we will then price up that trip so that the earner earns the fair value of that fare and knows exactly what they are accepting or not accepting,” Khosrowshahi said.

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