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Uber to close 45 of its offices

On Monday it was reported — by the Wall Street Journal, Tech Crunch, and others — that Uber will be laying off another 3,000 employees and closing 45 of its offices around the world. Here is a quote from TechCrunch:

“I knew that I had to make a hard decision, not because we are a public company, or to protect or stock price, or to please our Board or investors,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote to employees today in a memo, viewed by TechCrunch. “I had to make this decision because our very future as an essential service for the cities of the world — our being there for millions of people and businesses who rely on us — demands it. We must establish ourselves as a self-sustaining enterprise that no longer relies on new capital or investors to keep growing, expanding, and innovating.”

According to this SEC filing, the company expects to pay approximately $110 million to $140 million in severance and other termination benefits, and somewhere between $65 million to $80 million in costs related to closing its offices.

All of this is, of course, being driven by a steep decline in ride bookings, which is about 70% of the company’s revenue. Ride bookings were down 80% in April from a year earlier. For Q1 2020, they were down about 5% compared to 2019.

Uber Eats has seen a spike in demand with people staying at home. Bookings were up 52% in Q1 2020 from a year earlier. The problem is that, unlike its rides business, their food delivery business is far from profitable. That’s the point of the possible merger with Grubhub.

The company has said that they are seeing some signs of a recovery in markets that have begun to reopen. But it’s too early to predict what that will really look like. The hole is pretty deep.

Pre-COVID, ride hailing demand tended to surge on the weekends as people went out to restaurants, bars, and clubs. So presumably those activities will need to return for its revenue to return. But I also think we could see a spike because of people being nervous to take public transit.

Either way, the company is making some really tough decisions right now. But it seems to be doing what it needs to do in order to get to the other side of this and become a self-sustaining and profitable business. Full disclosure: I own some $UBER.

Chart: Uber Q1 2020 results

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