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Is Uber a Buy?

Rick Munarriz, The Motley Fool

Investors have a chance to hail a ride on Uber Technologies (NYSE: UBER) -- the stock, not the service -- for slightly less than the $45 per-share price that IPO investors paid a little more than two months ago. We all love discounts, but is Uber broken or ready to bounce higher?

Calling the bottom on Uber has been a challenging game. The stock has actually hit its original $45 price four times in its brief publicly traded tenure, only to buckle under all four times. There is a lot to like about Uber in terms of its market dominance in a growing niche, but critics will counter that Uber's slowing growth and SUV-sized losses are deal breakers. Let's see how Uber stacks up on your buying radar. 

A driver at night with an Uber beacon shining in his car.

Image source: Uber.

Waiting to be picked up

There's never a shortage of news when it comes to Uber. This week alone we've seen Uber launch in Hamburg, its sixth city in German, as well one analyst report claiming that Uber may be interested in acquiring Uber Eats rival Postmates if the price is right. We also saw McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) end its exclusivity with Uber for delivery, after the burger giant struck a deal to also make its menu available through DoorDash. 

We'll also get what should be stock-moving news early next month when Uber reports its financial results for the second quarter shortly after the market close on Aug. 8. This will be Uber's second time announcing quarterly results since going public, but its earlier performance was spelled out pretty clearly in its IPO prospectus. 

Despite the steady trickle of potentially game-changing news, Uber stock has been steadily trading in the low- to mid-$40s since June. Things are unlikely to stay that way for much longer. 

Uber doesn't mind making a lot of noise as it disrupts the personal mobility, food delivery, and even freight logistics markets. It's succeeding. Uber had 93 million monthly active platform consumers by the end of the first quarter, and that figure will be undeniably higher when it announces its second-quarter metrics in three weeks. 

Revenue growth has been slowing at Uber, particularly on a net basis as it ramps up the money it's sending back to its drivers to keep them active and motivated. The red ink is substantial, and it's expected to remain that way for years. However, the deep deficits should also help Uber grow in the near term by scaring away potential entrants and allowing it to cherry-pick the acquisition of rivals in an inevitable shakeout. 

App-based ridesharing isn't going away. Regulatory agencies, taxi and limo drivers, car dealerships, and even pizza chains may have issues with Uber and its peers, but the personal mobility market has been forever changed since the arrival of ride-hailing apps. 

Uber is a broken IPO, but that doesn't make it any less worthy as an investment. The industry is booming, and Uber is a clear leader. Getting in now at a sub-IPO price is actually a good thing. The valuation concerns remain, and they're legitimate. Uber is trading at a market cap that is more than five times this year's revenue, and you'll have to wait until about 2025 before the bottom line turns positive to perform an earnings-based multiple. However, this is a market that will only continue to grow, and Uber should continue to be the one leading the revolution. 

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Uber Technologies. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.