The Strategist

Axel Springer invests in Uber

04/20/2017 - 15:07

German company Axel Springer, publishes newspapers Die Welt and Bild, acquired a stake in Uber Technologies. It is not reported how much the publisher has invested, but, according to the statements of Axel Springer, the share is minimal. This is not the group's first investment in technology companies: the company already bought a stake in Airbnb in 2012.

German media concern Axel Springer, which owns publications Die Welt and Bild, acquired a share in Uber Technologies online taxi service. Axel Springer did not disclose the amount of the acquired stake, but the representative of the company said that it is a question of a "minimal" share and is more likely a financial participation than a strategic investment. Back in 2012, Axel Springer also bought a stake in the online rental service Airbnb, and in total the concern has invested in more than 100 companies. It also became known that Bild’s former publisher Kai Diekmann became a consultant in Uber.

Recently, Uber found itself in the center of several scandals. At the end of March, a three-year-old story came to light: one of the former Uber employees described how several top managers of the company visited a karaoke bar with escort services during their trip to South Korea in 2014. In addition, the company is currently investigating complaints from several employees about sexual harassment in Uber.

Uber keeps losing money despite the growth in income. According to Bloomberg, the company lost $ 3 bln. in the last year. The company’s position on the market shows that Uber's price is now higher than that of General Motors plus Twitter. However, if things run on this way, investors suggest that Uber would have to increase its percentage of per-trip price and reduce bonuses to drivers. One way or another, measures will lead to a reduction in driver fees. Harry Campbell, a blogger who writes about cars a driving, says this has already started to happen. "Too controversial for 2017, "the driver's year", he says.

According to the recently published financial documents, a possible transition to self-driving cars will not improve the situation. Uber accountants have calculated that a complete elimination of drivers will increase the company’s net profit by only 5%. It is assumed that the city authorities would try to establish a fixed price for driverless trips. This decision will inevitably turn Uber from a technology company into a fleet management firm. Such a transition will bring all the additional costs of insurance and technical support. It will not be cheap.

Still, Uber is optimistic about the future. Currently, the company's autonomous vehicles can be found on the streets of Pittsburgh and Phoenix (and, probably, in San Francisco in the near future). Accusations from Waymo, a manufacturer of unmanned vehicles and Google's partner, may become the greatest danger to Uber’s long-term existence. Waymo argues that Anthony Levandowski, an American self-driving car engineer, was plotting to appropriate and reproduce Google's technology for unmanned vehicle control. Uber calls these accusations "unreasonable".