🍰 Uber's pandemic-weathering recipe

Friday, March 20, 2020 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures

Uber flexing its flexible cost structure

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Hey Snackers,

Birthday coming up? Your best bet might be Quarantine Cakes: frosted layers of deliciousness with a healthy dollop of CDC messaging — eating an entire cake alone never felt so right.

The Dow inched up 190 points, rebounding from its 3-year low the day before. Meanwhile, oil surged 23% for its best day ever.

1. Uber's CEO just basically updated the company's Tinder profile

$10B in cash, lots of food, and some side-hustlin'... Sounds like a good recipe for weathering a pandemic — and Uber just flaunted it to the world, fresh out the oven. Its stock popped 38% after CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said his company has plenty of cushion to weather the crisis. First, the burnt cake:

  • Uber stock has plunged 50% over the past month on locked-down cities, shuttered restaurants/bars, and overall germ fears.
  • That's courtesy of a 60%-70% plummet in rides in areas most affected by the crisis — it also suspended its shared pool rides on virus-spread fears.

But Uber is primarily a tech company... While some investors equate ride-hailing with travel, and travel with a current mega-struggle bus, Uber wants the world to remember that its business is tech. It flexed its crisis-confidence by throwing out some #fancy terms:

  • "Ample liquidity" — Uber's got $10B in unrestricted cash to cushion its ride-hailing woes. It says that even if rides fall by 80% this year (worst-case scenario), it would still have $4B in cold hard cash left to spare on top of a $2B credit line.
  • "Multiple business lines" — That's Uber Eats (its food delivery biz), Uber Freight (its shipping app), and Uber Health (its healthcare ride-scheduling app) — all poised to succeed at a time when simple ride-sharing can't.

Flexible costs could be Uber's lifeline... Another fancy term Uber dropped: "highly variable cost structure." Uber's expenses are flexible — costs can scale when business winds down/up. Uber doesn't have many fixed costs (think: rent). That's an advantage over business like airlines and car-makers, which have massive factories and expensive machinery. Uber's "storefront" is an app — not a rent-heavy retail spot.


Netflixing while stretching and video-conferencing... That Love is Blind episode might be coming in a little fuzzier than usual. Netflix is a leader of the "stay-at-home" stock pack, and we've been doing a preternatural amount of staying-at-home lately. So the EU asked it to stop streaming HD video to "secure internet access for all" — aka, not break the internet:

  • The EU Commissioner literally called Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to tell him to cut out the HD stuff because it's causing an internet traffic jam. He even started a hashtag for it: #SwitchtoStandard.
  • At least for the next month, Netflix will reduce its streaming quality in Europe. Because not being able to stream in HD is probably the least of our problems. Plus...
  • Videos account for a massive bulk of network traffic, like a giant weight on the internet's back. Netflix's HD vids use 3GB of data/hour, as opposed to 1GB/hour for standard def.

Netflix isn't the only one pushing the web's limits... Facebook also had a massive viral-surge in usage for its "family of apps" (Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger) — and it admitted it's being stretched to the limits of its tech infrastructure. Google, which is now offering its enterprise WFH software for free, has been working on increasing its capacity, too.


While media usage is surging, media is not equal... The key difference is in the business model: Google/Facebook/Snapchat rely on ad sales, while Netflix has a subscription-based model (starting at $8.99/month). If the economy hits recession, advertisers are expected to cut back on their ad budgets. That's a threat to ad-based biz models — Netflix's subscription-focus might be more reliable in the long-term.

What else we’re Snackin’
  • Hired: Domino's expects to hire 10K workers to fuel its uniquely big (and self-operated) delivery operation while the rest of the industry (sadly) lays off
  • Dedicate: Retailers including Walmart and Target dedicate store shopping hours to seniors more vulnerable to COVID-19
  • 24/7: GE's healthcare unit will produce ventilators around-the-clock to meet the shortage
  • Hosted: Airbnb is taking on "significant" investment pitches for funding during a down market (despite having $3B in cash)
  • Vaxx: Clinical research group hVIVO attracts over 20K people willing to be infected with a tamer version of COVID-19 — the goal is to find a vaccine
  • OK: President Trump says he's 'OK' banning stock buybacks as a corporate bailout condition — FYI, US airlines spent 96% of free cash flow on buybacks in the last decade
Snacks Daily Podcast

With nobody thinking about splurging $50K on an F-150 right now, Ford’s sweating over what it can't a-Ford.

So it's suspending the dividend payments it normally doles out to investors and is temporarily shutting down plants. It’s also tapping into its $13B emergency loan... that’s a problem for its banks.

Learn why on our 15-minute pod.

  • Existing Home Sales Report
  • Earnings expected from Tiffany & Co

Disclosure: Authors of this Snacks own shares of Uber and Alphabet

ID: 1125380

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