Uber ‘just started to flex its platform muscle’: Can other gig-economy players keep up?



They cheered the company’s more consistent profitability and the prospect of an investor-payout plan, growth in ride demand and gains in the segment that allows other businesses to advertise in the app. And they cited its potential to become a bigger part of local economies by transporting more people, takeout, groceries and other goods from one spot to another. One said Uber
UBER,
-0.98%
had “just started to flex its platform muscle.”

In the week ahead, we’ll see if the praise extends to some of Uber’s smaller gig-economy rivals.

Uber’s main ride-hailing rival, Lyft Inc., reports results on Tuesday, as does online grocery-delivery service Maplebear Inc., better known as Instacart. Food-delivery app DoorDash Inc. reports on Thursday. Taken together, those results will offer a fuller portrait of gig work and delivery demand.

Ride-sharing has rebounded since the pandemic and analysts have generally said a return to more “normal” trends benefits Uber. But spending on online grocery delivery slowed last year, according to Oppenheimer analysts, after a pandemic-era boom in demand.

Meanwhile, customers continue to complain about spiraling food-delivery costs, and drivers, largely stuck in less generous contractor roles, are still fighting for better pay and benefits. And online advertising — in which outside businesses pay a company like Uber or DoorDash
DASH,
+0.85%
for ad space in their apps — could become a more important sales driver for those platforms as they navigate ebbs and flows in consumer demand elsewhere.

Lyft
LYFT,
+1.96%
will report as it tries harder to distinguish itself from Uber, focusing on things like services that give employees rides to and from work, and services for women and non-binary drivers and riders. In an effort to attract drivers, the company last week said it would pay its drivers at least 70% of whatever fare riders paid — after external fees. Lyft also said it would give drivers more detailed breakdowns of riders’ fares.

Meanwhile, shares of Instacart
CART,
+2.03%
are down from their IPO price, and its customers are still feeling the pain from a jump in grocery prices over the past few years. But Wedbush analysts liked the company’s recent move to offer Google Shopping ads to its advertising partners, and said those ads — which take shoppers from Google to Instacart when they click on them — would help Instacart grab a bigger slice of advertisers’ spending.

Jefferies analysts, meanwhie, upgraded shares of DoorDash
DASH,
+0.85%
last month, saying that its bigger push into advertising, and delivering items from grocery and convenience stores, would help profits over the next two years.

This week in earnings

More than two-thirds of the companies in the S&P 500 index have turned out results for their most recent quarter, FactSet said in a report on Friday. For the week ahead, 62 S&P 500 companies report results in the week ahead, including two from the Dow, that report said.

Following difficulties at McDonald’s Corp.
MCD,
-0.84%,
which said the conflict in the Middle East had hurt business and that lower-income customers were spending less, we’ll hear from chains like Shake Shack Inc.
SHAK,
+0.58%,
Wendy’s Co.
WEN,
+1.26%
and Krispy Kreme Inc.
DNUT,
+0.30%.
Crypto exchange Coinbase Global Inc.
COIN,
+7.12%
will also report, amid questions about the impact of new Bitcoin exhange-traded funds and regulatory scrutiny.

Sports-betting platform DraftKings Inc.
DKNG,
+1.33%
will publish earnings in the wake of the Super Bowl, while clog and sandal maker Crocs Inc.
CROX,
+3.10%
will report in the wake of a more upbeat outlook last month. Beverage giants Molson Coors
TAP,
-0.05%
and Coca-Cola Co.
KO,
-0.45%
also report, as will lodging platform Airbnb Inc.
ABNB,
-1.96%

The call to put on your calendar

Last week, Mattel Inc.
MAT,
+0.11%
said it was cutting costs, as the confetti clears following the success the “Barbie” movie and the company stares down a year ahead where toy demand is expected to be weaker, in part due to a thinner film pipeline. We’ll see if that represents any opportunity for archrival Hasbro Inc. when it reports results for the key holiday quarter on Tuesday.

Games like “Dungeons & Dragons,” “Magic: The Gathering” and the video game “Baldur’s Gate III” have been bright spots for the company. And as both Mattel and Hasbro try to get more of their toys and games made into films and TV shows, executives in October said Hasbro
HAS,
-0.18%
had more than 30 entertainment-related projects in the making, such as “Transformers One” and animated “Magic” series on Netflix. But the company is trying to tighten up elsewhere. In December, the company sold off its Entertainment One film and TV business to Lionsgate for $375 million and announced another round of layoffs. However, it also declared a dividend.

The number to watch

Cisco orders and sales: Networking and cloud-services giant Cisco Systems Inc.
CSCO,
+0.36%
reports quarterly results on Wednesday. Those results will arrive amid questions about possible strategic missteps, post-pandemic demand and competition, and how many customers have already bought the products they need from the company.

In November, the company cut its full-year sales outlook. Chief Executive Chuck Robbins said at that time that the company saw new orders decelerate, adding that “our customers are now focused on installing and implementing these unprecedented levels of products.” Needham analyst Alex Henderson said that the forecasts “cement our view that Cisco is losing share in its core business.”

Wall Street will look for more clarity on what path Cisco might take amid subdued expectations. They got one possible clue on Friday: Reuters reported the company is planning “thousands” of job cuts as it focuses on areas of business with bigger growth potential.



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