Uber hurt by political 'market swirl' after IPO, CEO says

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi participates in a discussion during a breakfast event of The Economic Club of Washington tuesday in Washington, DC. Khosrowshahi discussed the future of mobility, including infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, the development of aerial ridesharing and Uber's recent initial public offering (IPO). — AFP

WASHINGTON — Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said Tuesday the company's slump following its share offering last month was due to a "market swirl" over tariffs that won't affect its long-term performance.

Speaking at a Washington forum, Khosrowshahi said Uber remains focused on growth over the next several years but that he sees a road to profitability for the ride-hailing giant.

"We got caught up in a bit of a market swirl, and there's nothing you can do about that," Khosrowshahi said in an on-stage interview sponsored by the Economic Club of Washington.

Khosrowshahi said the record drop after the initial public offering was likely due to trade frictions stemming from President Donald Trump's tariffs announced on China.

The rocky debut does not change the long-term outlook for Uber, which he said is moving beyond ride-sharing into electric bikes and scooters, meal deliveries and has a long-term project on flying taxis.

"If we work on creating a great enterprise, the market will take care of itself," he said.

Khosrowshahi said Uber is aiming for a slice of a global transportation market worth some $16 trillion, allowing significant opportunities. "We think it's time to lean forward," he said.

"The business itself can be quite profitable — we're confident of that — but the next two, three, four years are going to be about growth."

Khosrowshahi's appearance coincided with the debut of the Uber Elevate summit in Washington discussing Uber's plans to create a network of flying taxis in some markets by 2023.

Asked about Uber's plans for autonomous vehicles, he said he does not expect self-driving taxis for at least 15 years but that some automation will be integrated sooner.

Khosrowshahi said there may be some self-driving vehicles for the "easiest" trips within five years.

But for fully autonomous rides, "we're going to be incredibly careful and we'll be absolutely sure safety comes first." — AFP