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Uber's leaked finances show the company might — just might — be able to turn a profit


One of the mysteries surrounding Uber is the question of why the company has not yet filed to go public. The app's revenues are known to be growing aggressively as it launches services in new countries and new cities. But, repeatedly, leaks of Uber's financial data have shown the company carrying huge losses.

Uber has taken $12 billion over 15 rounds of investment, and has a reported valuation of nearly $70 billion. If it were to float its stock in an IPO, it would need to raise a staggering amount for all those investors — 77 different groups, according to Crunchbase — to make a profit.

It would also need to show that its losses are diminishing over time, and that investors in Uber stock might one day own a company that makes money.

There have been several different leaks of Uber's financial data over the years, covering income from 2012 through Q4 2016. We gathered together all the numbers that have been reliably reported, focusing mainly on data from Uber's income statements. Our numbers came from Bloomberg, The Information, Valleywag, Gawker, AllThingsD, TechCrunch, The New York Times, and Naked Capitalism (find a full set of links to our raw numbers and references below).

The numbers show some patterns:

  • Revenue is indeed growing aggressively, if the leaks are to be believed, although growth in total business transacted on the Uber app began slowing down late last year. Gross bookings were $5.4 billion last year.

  • Net revenues – the cut that Uber keeps from each trip fare — also continue to grow healthily, reaching $1.7 billion in Q4 2016.

  • Uber's costs and expenses vastly outweigh its revenues. Uber is cheap because the company is heavily subsidising each trip.

  • But there is some evidence that Uber's losses are getting smaller over time. It also appears that Uber has some control over when it makes losses, and how big those losses are. That's a sign that the company may not be terminally unprofitable.

Of course, the data come with some heavy qualifications and caveats. Some financial periods are missing. The information was gathered from different leaks at different times over a period of years, and so the numbers may not accurately reflect Uber's current accounting. And the leaks also show that Uber may have changed the way it handles the accounting treatment for its business over the years, so some of our numbers may compare apples to oranges.

Uber acknowledged but did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Nonetheless, when charted, the numbers show something typical for a tech startup: a rocket-ship of growing revenues coupled with equally dramatic losses — and yet, some indication that the business could make money in the future.

First, the big picture. Here are Uber's most recent gross bookings by quarter (data for Q3 2015 is missing):

Uber sold its China business to Didi Chuxing last year, so that sudden slowdown in growth might be a function of lost Chinese bookings on Uber. We simply don't know.

Uber's net revenue per quarter looks very positive. Net revenue is the cut Uber takes on each ride, which is roughly 20%.