The only question left regarding Uber Technologies (NYSE:UBER) stock is: where’s the bottom?
At around $45.70 per share, the ride-hailing and food delivery company’s stock is well down from its 52-week high of $64.05.
UBER stock has fallen 14% in the past six months, and the share price is now up a little more than 4% from its 2019 initial public offering (IPO) price, leaving investors frustrated and feeling that the company has never lived up to the hype that surrounded it before the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Closer Look at UBER Stock
While ride-sharing was an exciting concept about four years ago, Uber Technologies has fallen victim to the problems that have hampered many so-called “gig economy” stocks, namely ongoing labor strife.
Uber has been accused of underpaying its workers in the 900 cities in which it operates. Many of the company’s drivers claim they barely break even working as independent contractors.
Uber is involved in a protracted legal battle in California over whether the people who work for it should be classified as “employees” and entitled to minimum wage and, potentially, healthcare coverage and other benefits.
The legal case in California is seen as a bellwether for other jurisdictions and the findings in California could be replicated across the U.S.
Uber lost a similar legal case in the United Kingdom and has been forced to classify 70,000 drivers in the country as employees and pay them the legally mandated minimum wage.
Uber has spent more than $50 million waging its legal fight in California, where the company has more than 200,000 drivers. However, the company estimates that being forced to classify all those drivers in the Golden State as employees could cost it about $200 million in higher pay, annual payroll taxes and workers’ compensation payments.
Almost anyway one looks at it, Uber Technologies is likely to see its operating costs rise in the near future and that reality is weighing on the share price.
Another source of pain for Uber has been the global pandemic, which literally hurt its operations around the world. As lockdown measures forced people to shelter at home and governments around the world doled out pandemic relief benefits, Uber’s workforce dropped considerably.
The company estimates that it lost more than 15% of its workforce in 2020 from layoffs and resignations. In April this year, Uber launched a $250 million signing bonus program to attract new drivers and couriers for its food-delivery business.
The company says its bonus program has been successful at enticing people back to the company.
While these labor issues continue to vex Uber and its long-suffering shareholders, the elephant in the room with the company is profitability or lack thereof.
Uber’s path to profitability has been challenging and murky, according to many analysts who cover the company. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, Uber lost $2.9 billion, which it attributed to an 80% drop in ride-hailing bookings at the height of the global pandemic.
A report in The Financial Times this past June estimated Uber’s total losses since its founding in 2009 at $22 billion.
The company said in September that it may finally turn a profit for the first time in its history this quarter, raising its guidance to an adjusted profit of up to $25 million from a previous forecast of a $100 million net loss.
Wall Street appears to have adopted a “believe it when I see it” attitude towards Uber’s upwardly revised guidance.
Wait for UBER Stock to Turnaround
Uber may eventually turn around its business. Reporting a profit this quarter would be a big step for the company and would almost certainly help its share price recover. However, right now Uber continues to be weighed down by big losses, legal entanglements and labor strife.
All over the world, the company’s business model is under attack from labor activists, politicians and the courts. Since going public, the stock has done nothing but disappoint its shareholders.
Given its ongoing challenges and chronic underperformance, investors should stay away from the ride-hailing company until such time as it demonstrates a significant turnaround in its business. UBER stock is not a buy.
Disclosure: On the date of publication, Joel Baglole did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Joseph Nograles is a part-time freelance copywriter focused on the financial industry. He has worked in a wide variety of industries from tech to consulting with one of the “big four.” He has always enjoyed analyzing businesses and has been a CFA charterholder for nearly a decade now.