Uber reports its latest earnings on Thursday, and investors will be looking for signs of a new breakthrough.
Shares of the ride-hailing giant are down 2.8% since its May IPO, and closed at $39.70 on Wednesday. It has once cracked its initial offering price of $45 per share once in its time as a public company. Analysts polled by FactSet are expecting revenue of $3.4 billion and a loss of $2.03 per share on average for the June quarter.
Wall Street has viewed both Uber (UBER) and its smaller rival, Lyft (LYFT) , with skepticism over the past few months. In a note this week, Wedbush's Dan Ives wrote that the June quarter earnings represents a pivotal moment for both, and with Uber specifically, "We are also looking for updated commentary on the current market dynamics of North America, Uber Eats with the changing European environment, take rate dynamics, improvement in profitability, and California Bill AB5."
That law, passed by the California legislature in May, would entitle gig workers such as Uber drivers to labor protections and basic benefits. If enacted, it would mean added costs for Uber as well as additional legal headaches if the law were adapted elsewhere in the U.S.
In the meantime, Uber is also seeking to work more productively with municipalities after facing persistent criticism for worsening traffic and and other ills. (New York, for example, enacted a surcharge for rides to Manhattan as well as a cap on ride-hail drivers in the city.) In a bid for more growth, Uber is working with some cities to offer train or bus tickets through its app. Uber has inked deals with 20 transit agencies since 2015, the New York Times reported this week, and some of those deals include subsidies paid for by cities.
Uber is also experimenting with other marginal forms of revenue outside of its core businesses of ride-hailing fares and Uber Eats. One such example is the Cargo App Store, the result of a partnership between Uber and the Cargo shopping app. The idea is that Uber riders can shop for products while riding and earn discounts or other rewards. Uber recently introduced a rewards program, Uber Rewards, in a bid to increase customer loyalty.
For the time being, however, it seems likely that investors will remain focused on the core business model, and whether Uber can scale back its spending and reshape its overall financial performance without losing customers. One critical piece of this is spending on subsidies, EquityZen noted in a recent report. Uber recently laid off 400 workers in its marketing division, a possible sign that it's trimming back expenditures on promotions, discounts or other marketing activities. And such spending can only be tolerated for so long, wrote EquityZen.
"As such, investors will be asking if [ride-hailing companies] can successfully balance rider price sensitivity with the need for price rationalization and a path to profitability. And if they cannot, investors will want to understand if non-ride-sharing avenues can help lift each of these companies towards profitability," EquityZen wrote.