Uber booked $20 billion in rides in 2016, but it's still losing billions

Uber hasn’t been able to stop ploughing through cash, and the ride-hailing company lost $US2.8 billion in 2016, excluding its China business, according to newly-released numbers published in Bloomberg. Factoring in its China subsidiary, which it sold in July, the number is likely greater than $US3 billion for the year.

Uber released its numbers to the public for the first time ever on Friday to show that its sales growth has remained strong even as it entered a tumultuous 2017.

Here are its key financials for 2016, per Uber’s release to Bloomberg:

  • Gross bookings: $US20 billion (double its 2015 numbers)
  • Net revenue: $US6.5 billion (excluding China)
  • Adjusted net losses: $US2.8 billion

In the fourth quarter, Uber both increased its bookings and upped its losses, according to the report. Uber’s gross bookings rose to $US6.9 billion in Q4, but its losses teetered close to a billion at $US991 million. Uber generated $US2.9 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter alone.

However, those numbers come with a lot of caveats. Uber says it’s using generally accepted accounting principles, but according to Bloomberg, Uber’s revenue is “only the portion Uber takes from fares, except in the case of its carpooling service; the company counts the entire amount of an UberPool fare as revenue.”

Uber’s loss statement also “doesn’t account for employee stock compensation, certain real-estate investments, automobile purchases and other expenses.”

Business Insider asked Uber for clarification on how entire UberPool fares can be counted towards revenue when it has to pay drivers out of those fares. It’s possible that the difference may owe to how Uber chooses to classify UberX versus the Uber Pool service — accounting rules distinguish between a business acting as an agent versus a business that is the principal and allow for revenue to be recognised differently.

Uber also declined to disclose its first quarter business numbers, but had previously said during a call with reporters that they continue to climb in the face of Uber’s numerous challenges.

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