Independent Research Firm Thinks It's Finally Safe to Buy Uber Stock

Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UBER) has become a poster child for unicorns that flopped after coming public in 2019. After an initial public offering of $4 per share in mid-May, Uber raised over $8 billion and proceeded to gut its shareholders ever since due to the company’s wide losses persisting with no real end in sight. Uber’s last earnings report came with an acknowledgment that profits do ultimately matter, and Uber’s new target is to profitable by the end of 2021, at least on an EBITDA basis.

While Uber is in the midst of losing money on every single transaction it embarks on in an effort to capture more market share, one independent research firm is calling a bottom in the stock. Argus, which relies on no commissions and no underwriting to support its research reports, has raised Uber to Buy from Hold. Where some investors may not be as excited is that its price target is $35. The consensus analyst target price for Uber from Refinitiv’s sell-side service is $45.00, and the post-IPO trading range of $25.58 to $47.08 in 2019 may not exude the greatest ambitions here.

Many investors decided to wait on the sidelines in the Uber-Lyft ride-hailing war that has disrupted taxis, car rentals and other pay-ride efforts around the world. It also remains to be seen if Uber Eats and the other gig-economy services Uber offers are going to help add to profits down the road or just keep adding to the losses.

As far as this latest upgrade from Argus, Uber is viewed as an improving competitive landscape in its core rides/Eats markets. The firm notes that Uber currently holds roughly 33% market share of the global ride-hailing industry, giving it efficiencies as the established leader and also leaving room for further growth.

Argus also pointed out that in the busted-IPO climate of unicorn IPOs in 2019 (Uber, Lyft, Slack, Beyond Meat and Pinterest), they have fallen about 36% on average since August 14, 2019. Uber’s drop since then had been “only” about 22%. The firm sees this pullback reflecting a shift in sentiment that has seen growth stocks fall out of favor, but Argus views the Uber selloff as a buying opportunity because its own fundamentals remained intact despite a slide in its share price.

Argus still sees double-digit industry growth as an opportunity to keep improving:

Uber’s market share lead and massive driver network mean that the company should, in theory, have long-term advantages over the competition. Network effects create higher earnings potential, which means that more drivers may choose to partner with Uber. On valuation, Uber shares have fallen roughly 35% since their May IPO, with some of the selling coming as equity investors shy away from unicorn tech stocks. Although this change in sentiment has caused a selloff in several recent IPOs, including Uber, we think that the concerns are overdone and believe that the pullback will actually help Uber over the long term. With its IPO in the rearview mirror, Uber is better positioned and better funded than many smaller, nonpublic competitors (including DoorDash, Lime, and Postmates), who may now need to recalibrate their IPO expectations and valuation assumptions. These companies have relied on successive rounds of pre-IPO financing with the expectation that their valuation will increase each time. However, in the wake of WeWork’s cancelled IPO and subsequent Softbank write-downs, pre-IPO investors may be more hesitant to fund unprofitable startups.

According to data from Statista in the Argus report, global revenue in the ride-hailing market came to $153 billion in 2018. Uber commanded gross bookings of $49.8 billion during this period, and Argus believes the company has just barely penetrated the broader “consumer mobility” market, with up to half of ride-sharing bookings in North America, as well as in parts of Europe, India and Oceana. On the side of “total personal mobility,” Uber is said to represent less than 1% in every major region where it operates, and Uber sees its total available market being $5.7 trillion per year for personal mobility.

Another buffer is that Uber still has a strong balance sheet to help it mitigate some of its larger losses. Its cash, cash equivalents and investments totaled $12.7 billion at the end of its last quarter, up from $7.8 billion at the end of 2018.

Uber shares were not responding positively to the Argus upgrade. They were last seen down 2.5% at $26.05, in a post-IPO trading range of $25.58 to $47.08. Uber’s market cap is still up above $44.5 billion.