💸 Uber’s profit delivery

Thursday, February 8, 2024 by Snacks
Surge-pricing aesthetic (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Surge-pricing aesthetic (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Surge-pricing aesthetic (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Surge-pricing aesthetic (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Yesterday’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
38,677 (+0.40%)
S&P 500
4,995 (+0.82%)
Nasdaq
15,757 (+0.95%)
Bitcoin
$44,161 (+2.47%)

Hey Snackers,

There’s a Tokyo Swift situation: the Japanese embassy has insisted Taylor Swift can make it back to the US in time to attend the Super Bowl, despite her concert in Tokyo the night before. If she can’t, it'll be bad news for those who’ve placed bets on which outfit she’ll wear or whether she’ll cry if the Chiefs lose.

The S&P 500 set a fresh record yesterday, closing in on a 5K milestone, after better-than-expected earnings boosted stocks.

Arrived

1. Uber delivers its first annual profit since IPO’ing — after ditching a hyper-growth mentality

You have arrived at your destination… after four years. Uber rolled up with its first annual profit as a public company, raking in nearly $1.9B last year — and $1.4B last quarter alone. The ride-hail pioneer, which IPO’d in 2019, posted a full-year profit in 2018, but that was thanks to investments. 2023 was the first year Uber’s actually taken home $$ from its operations. In Q4, rides were Uber’s fastest-growing biz, with bookings up 29% as folks whizzed off to concerts and Taco Tuesday nights. Delivery was strong too (bookings up 19%), but Uber’s freight biz lost steam as shipping slipped.

Change of MO… Before the pandemic, the modus operandi at Uber and other tech cos was growth at all costs — aka: forgoing profits to splurge on growth initiatives. Investment dollars were flooding in, letting startups burn through billions. In Uber’s case, it took the form of generous promo codes and discounts, as well as financial incentives for drivers. Uber stacked up tens of billions in operating losses over the years. Since the pandemic hit, it’s changed tack, streamlining operations:

  • Leanin’ out: Uber got rid of non-core businesses like self-driving cars. Last month it said it was shuttering its alcohol-delivery app, Drizly (but’ll continue delivering booze through Eats).

  • Cuttin’ costs: Uber laid off hundreds of workers last year, and said it’s cut back on customer promos and driver incentives.

THE TAKEAWAY

Cutting back ≠ slowing down… Recent blockbuster earnings from tech cos like Uber and Meta show that focusing on “efficiency” (ahem: profit-boosting) doesn’t mean forgoing strong revenue growth. Despite cutting expenses, Uber still saw double-digit sales growth. Its in-app ad biz has been a growth-boosting addition: active advertisers hit 550K+ last quarter — up 75% from a year earlier.

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EXTRACREDIT

2. Dartmouth brings back standardized testing, saying it helps applicants with lower incomes

Pencils down… Dartmouth became the first Ivy League school to bring back standardized testing admissions requirements. It’s been four years since the pandemic shut down testing centers, prompting thousands of schools to make the SAT and ACT optional. But now, as schools reckon with questions around legacy applicants and a Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action, they’re rethinking their admissions criteria again.

  • Gap: Nearly 90% of students from wealthy families go to college, compared to about 65% from middle-income families and around 50% from families with low incomes. A Harvard study found that students from the top 1% of households are 2X as likely to be admitted to and attend an Ivy than applicants with similar test scores from middle-class families.

  • But: Dartmouth said that it found that standardized testing gives lower-income applicants a leg up. By evaluating test scores with the student’s high school in mind, it said it’s easier to identify high performers from less resourced communities.

Pricey tutors and test prep… Critics of standardized testing say it favors the wealthy. Students and parents spent a record $1B on tutors, classes, and software (think: Chegg) to prep for standardized tests in 2019. The Princeton Review’s most popular online SAT-prep course costs $2.2K. Extreme example: some parents pay up to $750K for college consultants. The actual tests cost $60 to $90 a pop, and while a limited # of fee waivers are available, wealthier students can afford to retake tests more times.

THE TAKEAWAY

Testing was never really optional… After colleges dropped testing requirements, applications flooded colleges like Hogwarts letters. In turn, acceptance rates dropped by a lot. Facing that tough competition, school counselors have questioned how “optional” tests really were. MIT, which also brought back tests, said high scores sweeten a student’s application, especially when they don’t have access to as many AP classes and extracurriculars.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Robucks: Roblox shares popped 12% after the tween-fave gaming platform reported a 30% revenue spike. User #s soared 22% on the year after it arrived on Sony’s PlayStation and Meta’s Quest last fall.

  • Más: Taco Bell parent Yum Brands’ earnings disappointed as the Israel-Hamas war hit its international sales. Well ahead of its busy “burrito season,” rival Chipotle said sales rose as foot traffic grew by more than 7%.

  • Bundley: Disney’s ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. are pooling their sports content in hopes of creating a streaming MVP. The team-up could leave NBCUniversal, Apple, and Amazon with less live-sports running room.

  • F-150: Ford beat expectations as sales climbed 4% to $46B. The OG carmaker has seen success with hybrids (sales are expected to grow 40% this year) but is slowing its EV plans to match cooling demand.

  • EyesOn: Sphere Entertainment, the biz behind Las Vegas’ Sphere, reported $314M in revenue for its first full quarter with the venue open. It’s selling Sphere ad-space deals worth up to $2M leading up to the Super Bowl.

Snack Fact of the Day

So far this year, Tesla is the S&P 500’s worst-performing stock

Thursday

  • Earnings expected from Aurora Cannabis, ConocoPhillips, Cloudflare, Expedia, Philip Morris International, Spirit Airlines, Hershey, Affirm, Take-Two Interactive, and Pinterest

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Disney, Uber, and Yum Brands

Correction: In an earlier version of this newsletter, we mischaracterized Khan Academy as a paid service. It’s a free resource. We regret the error.

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