Better Buy: Uber vs. DoorDash

Uber (NYSE:UBER) and DoorDash (NYSE:DASH) are fierce rivals in the online food delivery market. Uber Eats, which was launched in 2014 to complement Uber’s core ride-hailing business, now operates in more than 6,000 cities across 45 countries. It also acquired Postmates last December to boost its market share in the U.S.

DoorDash, which was launched in 2013, generates most of its revenue in the U.S., but also operates in Canada, Australia, and Japan. DoorDash controlled 57% of the U.S. food delivery market in July, according to Bloomberg Second Measure. Uber/Postmates ranked second with a combined 26% share, while Just Eat Takeaway’s Grubhub — the former market leader — ranked third with a 16% share.

A Dasher picks up a delivery.

Image source: Uber.

Its adjusted EBITDA, which excluded that gain, remained in the red with a loss of $868 million in the first half of 2021, compared to a loss of $1.4 billion a year ago. As in previous periods, the losses from its delivery and freight segments offset the mobility segment’s positive adjusted EBITDA.

DoorDash’s net loss narrowed from $667 million in 2019 to $461 million in 2020, but doubled year over year from $106 million to $212 million in the first half of 2021.

On an adjusted EBITDA basis, DoorDash posted a net loss of $475 million in 2019, but generated a positive adjusted EBITDA of $189 million in 2020 and $156 million in the first half of 2021.

Analysts expect both companies to post narrower losses this year, but neither company will achieve GAAP profitability anytime soon.

That’s troubling when we consider the looming regulatory challenges. Proposition 22, the ballot measure that shielded Uber and DoorDash from AB5 (a California law that requires most companies to reclassify their independent contractors as employees), was recently overturned in a California court.

Uber, DoorDash, and other companies plan to appeal the ruling — but losing that battle could result in surging operating costs and steeper losses. Uber was already forced to pay minimum wages, holiday pay, and pensions in the U.K. by a court ruling, and other countries could still follow that lead.

Which stock is the better investment?

Those challenges are keeping me away from both stocks. But if I had to choose one, I’d pick Uber. Its business is better diversified, it will benefit from reopening tailwinds, and its stock is cheaper.

As for DoorDash, the company still faces too much competition, and it hasn’t proven that the food delivery business model is sustainable yet. Its growth will decelerate as the pandemic passes, and it can’t fall back on a more profitable business (like Uber’s ride-hailing business) to survive the slowdown.

  This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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