Time to buy Uber? Evercore’s Mark Mahaney and money manager weigh in
Uber reported a third-quarter loss, but its shares still closed 11% higher after it beat revenue estimates and gave strong fourth-quarter guidance. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi painted an optimistic picture in a prepared statement Tuesday, saying the company delivered a “strong quarter” and is “well positioned to deliver expanding profitability over the coming quarters.” Despite Tuesday’s rally, shares of Uber are still down more than 30% year-to-date — in part due to the broad market weakness this year but also a reflection of continued concerns over Uber’s rising costs and path to profitability. With such a mixed picture, should investors buy the dip on Uber, or should they continue to stay on the sidelines? ‘Not for the faint of heart’ Tech analyst Mark Mahaney believes Uber is “not for the faint of heart” and requires a “patient and long term growth investor.” But he sees the company as the “best way to play the global growth in ride sharing and delivery.” “This is a high-risk asset. But for those who are looking for growth and future profit assets — which is a very tough thing to do in this market — there’s Uber. It’s a company that offers you growth at scale, and we think substantial profitability in the future,” Mahaney, senior managing director and head of the internet research team at Evercore ISI, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday. He said Uber operates in a global ride sharing and delivery market that is valued at $2 trillion. He believes the company is poised to grow its bookings by about 30% from its current customer base of 90 million. While Uber’s growth potential is undeniable, investors have long been skeptical about its ability to do so profitably. But Mahaney believes there is now evidence that Uber has turned a corner — after the company turned free cash flow positive for the first time in the June quarter. The company will generate about $4 billion in free cash flow in 2024 and $5 billion in 2025, he estimates. “If you put reasonable multiples on that, you can get a double in the stock, if you are willing to look out a year or two. So that’s why we like Uber, kind of the best way to play the global growth in ride sharing and in delivery,” he said. Read more ‘Very attractive’: Buy this automaker to play massive pent-up demand in U.S., fund manager says Forget Tesla? Citi and HSBC name 2 alternatives to play the EV boom Goldman’s Jeff Currie reveals ‘the best’ hedge against inflation, rate hikes and geopolitical risks He likens Uber’s current stage of growth to the early days of Amazon , noting that the latter also took many years to reach positive free cash flow, but once that “free cash flow point was reached, things just started spiraling up.” “I’m not sure if [Uber] is as good of a company. But the end markets are extremely large here. And that’s the Uber pitch. It’s still early stage, but you just hit that free cash flow inflection, and you get a lot of market cap creation when that inflection point gets hit,” he said. Mahaney said he finds it “interesting” that Uber is up 50% since the middle of the year. “That’s not arbitrary … It’s popping on free cash flow. The market is now [thinking], we have had two quarters in a row. That’s not a trend, but your 3Q comes in and your 4Q comes, this stock will continue to rerate,” he added. Mahaney said Uber’s higher margin mobility business is now recovering as the pandemic weans, while the company’s regulatory challenges have been “overstated.” “It’s a diversified business. This is not just ride sharing, and it’s not just delivery … the nice cost and revenue synergies between those two segments. And again, it’s the global leader in each of these verticals,” he said. Not real strength Louis Navellier, founder and chief investment officer at Navellier & Associates, believes Tuesday’s rally was merely a “big short covering rally.” “Short covering should never be confused with real strength,” he said. Navellier noted that Uber’s operating earnings are still negative, and he won’t “touch it” till the company “actually earns money.” “And obviously it has another earnings miss on which it likes to do big time. And I just don’t have confidence that they’re going to be able to monetize this,” he said. Even if Uber starts making money, Navellier warned that the current environment of “very low multiples” may be a headwind for the company. “You can see that even when the company starts earning money as Tesla has in recent years, Wall Street still crushed it because the multiple may be too high. We are now in an environment of very low multiples on Wall Street,” he said. To be sure, Navellier is not against buying Uber shares — he’s just not touching the stock for now, given the current challenging macro backdrop. “I realize Wall Street love disruptors … I would put Uber in the disrupter camp and there will be a time for it, but it’s not now. People are just too scared and they’re too conservative. So, it’s just not the time,” he said.