The Ratings Game: Uber is ready to join the FANG camp, analyst says after earnings

The Ratings Game: Uber is ready to join the FANG camp, analyst says after earnings

7 Feb    Finance News

Uber Technologies Inc. is ready to join the ranks of Facebook Inc., Inc., Netflix Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, one analyst said after the company’s latest earnings report.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney reiterated his view that FANGU was perhaps a better acronym for big internet companies than the traditional FANG moniker, adding Uber UBER, +9.38%  to the mix as the ride-hailing giant seeks to take advantage of its massive scale while working toward profitability. The stock is up 8% in Friday morning trading.

“Uber is the global ridesharing leader and is becoming the global food delivery leader,” wrote Mahaney, who said that Uber remains his top pick in the large-cap internet universe. He cut his price target on the stock to $59 from $64 while maintaining an outperform rating, but he still sees more than 50% upside for the shares with the reduced target.

In the latest quarterly numbers that came out Thursday afternoon, Mahaney liked that Uber’s ride-hailing business saw improvements as the ride hailing industry as a whole becomes more “rational,” meaning that players have limited their attempts to undercut one another with the sorts of pricing and big discounts that had at one time suggested the business might be a race to the bottom. Mahaney saw encouraging signs in Uber’s pricing moves and talk about service segmentation.

While Uber’s 2020 revenue forecast came up a bit shy of the Wall Street consensus, the company projected a lower loss than analysts were expecting, giving signs of hope on a key metric that had been fueling unease for Uber investors since the company came public last May.

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Uber’s commentary around its outlook drew cheers from Bernstein’s Mark Shmulik, who was encouraged that the company gave better disclosures. “The transparency from management was welcome, ambitious, and hammered home a message of profitable growth,” he wrote. “Now, all Uber needs to do is go an execute against these goalposts.”

Opinion: Uber makes a lot of big promises for 2020 — now it just has to live up to them

Shmulik acknowledged that there seems to be a “war” going on between profitability and growth at Uber as the company manages the trade-offs.

“Uber’s guidance on the bottom-line was positive, and arguably necessary to build credibility with investors,” he wrote. “At the same time, it seems to be coming at the expense of growth. With management conviction high on this strategy, and belief low-hanging fruit is there, all that’s left is to go deliver.”

Shmulik kept his outperform rating and $40 target price on the shares.

Uber got an upgrade from MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni, who said he sees “light at the end of this tunnel” given that has lately been valued by investors “as if it is going out of business” whereas now the company is sounding more serious about its profit goals.

“Over the past couple of quarters, Uber’s incremental margins on Rides revenue upside have been >70%, largely responsible for this acceleration in pathway to profitability,” he wrote. “We think this trendline is sustainable near-term, with potential for further upside if food delivery companies start acting like good stalwarts of capital.”

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Susquehanna’s Shyam Patil said that Uber seems to be “making progress” on profitability goals, but he’s not ready to jump on the bull train just yet.

“[T]he improving profitability continues to highlight that the U.S. rideshare market is rationalizing and both Uber and Lyft LYFT, +4.79%  plan to act accordingly going forward,” he wrote. “That said, the lack of visibility and uncertainty around trends in ridesharing and Eats outside the U.S. continue to make us cautious around the near-term trends.”

Patil reiterated a neutral rating on the stock but bumped his target price up to $42 from $31.

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At least 17 analysts raised their price targets on Uber’s stock after the report, while at least two lowered theirs, according to a FactSet count. The average price target listed is $48.19, 20% above current levels, as analysts are largely upbeat about Uber’s stock prospects: Of the 42 analysts tracked by FactSet who cover the stock, 30 rate it a buy and the rest rate it a hold.

Uber shares have gained 46% over the past three months as of Thursday’s close, compared with an 8.1% rise for the S&P 500 SPX, -0.55%  in that span.

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