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This Is Uber’s Biggest Problem

February 14, 2018, 2:57 PM UTC

This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. Sign up here.

I try not to write about the same company twice in one week, but Uber’s just-released year-end results make the wildest of companies tough to ignore.

Let’s start with two numbers: $7.5 billion and $4.5 billion. The former is Uber’s 2017 sales, according to multiple reports Tuesday, when Uber shared results with investors. It’s a giant number. Were Uber a public company, which it has said it wants to be, such results would rank it No. 367 or so on the Fortune 500 list of the biggest companies in the U.S.

Here’s the thing about the Fortune 500, a list designed to show the industrial and financial might of the American economy: Most of the companies on it make money. Not Uber. It lost the latter number, a staggering amount. “There are few historical precedents for the scale of its loss,” writes Bloomberg’s Eric Newcomer.

Uber doesn’t file these numbers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, so it’s hard to slice and dice them. The loss includes things like write-downs, stock-based compensation expenses, depreciation, and legal costs. (Uber clearly hopes litigation payments aren’t recurring, especially since it has settled its acrimonious suit with Alphabet’s Waymo unit.)

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber’s cash burn for the fourth quarter was a “scant”—adjective: barely sufficient or adequate—$40 million. I’d say a quarterly burn of $40 million is indeed barely sufficient. It shows that despite its robust sales growth Uber still isn’t where it needs to be to go public.


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