Uber is losing $1bn a year to compete in China

Transport company is locked in fierce battle with local rival Didi Kuaidi to lure customers

An  Uber Technologies  driver recruitment event in Hong Kong. Photograph: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

An Uber Technologies driver recruitment event in Hong Kong. Photograph: Justin Chin/Bloomberg


The chief executive of Uber Technologies said the company is burning through more than a billion dollars a year in China, where it is locked in a fierce battle with larger local rival Didi Kuaidi to lure consumers with cut-price deals.

Uber’s China unit boosted its valuation last month to more than $8 billion after it raised over $1 billion in its latest funding round, although the US ride-hailing app is not yet profitable in the mainland due to intense competition.

“We’re profitable in the USA, but we’re losing over $1 billion a year in China,” Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick told Canadian technology platform Betakit. Uber officials in China confirmed the comments in an email to Reuters on Thursday.

“We have a fierce competitor that’s unprofitable in every city they exist in, but they’re buying up market share. I wish the world wasn’t that way.”

Uber and China’s Didi Kuaidi, backed by Chinese technology giants Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, have both spent heavily to subsidise rides to gain market share, betting on China’s internet-linked transport market becoming the world’s biggest.

Uber China said in an emailed statement that Didi Kuaidi was having to spend “many multiples” more than the US firm to increase its share of the market, adding that Uber’s China operation was backed up by profitable ones outside the region.

A spokesman for Didi Kuaidi, which has the biggest market share of China’s car-hailing app market, did not provide an immediate comment when contacted by email.

In January, Mr Kalanick said spending on subsidies is “how you win” in China, adding that Uber aimed to beat Didi Kuaidi by spending subsidies more efficiently. Uber currently operates in over 40 Chinese cities and plans to be in 100 by the end of the year.

“I prefer building rather than fundraising,” Mr Kalanick added in the interview with Betakit. “But if I don’t participate in the fundraising bonanza, I’ll get squeezed out by others buying market share.”