India's Zomato surges 13% on smaller quarterly loss

Delivery workers of Zomato wait to collect orders outside a restaurant in Kolkata

BENGALURU (Reuters) -Shares of Zomato Ltd jumped as much as 13% on Friday, a day after the Indian food delivery firm reported a smaller quarterly loss helped by a rise in volumes and order value.

Net loss narrowed to 2.51 billion rupees ($30.73 million) in the July-September quarter from 4.30 billion rupees a year earlier. Excluding figures for its recently acquired grocery delivery firm Blinkit, loss was 600 million rupees.

"This is better than the most bullish estimate," Jefferies analyst Vivek Maheshwari said.

Zomato shares, which have dropped more than 50% this year, hit a 15-week high of 72.25 rupees.

Average monthly transacting customers grew 4.4% sequentially to 17.5 million.

Gross order value, or the total value of all food delivery orders placed online on Zomato's platform, jumped nearly 23%.

Many pandemic habits, from interacting with colleagues through video calls daily to donning athleisure apparel, are fading, but people are still ordering in more, enjoying the ease of getting their pizzas and rotis delivered to their doorstep.

"As customers mature on our platform, we have seen that their ordering frequency increases consistently with each passing year," Chief Financial Officer Akshant Goyal said on Thursday.

Zomato also said its cash balance had remained broadly unchanged from a year earlier despite the losses at a time when fast-growing unprofitable technology ventures are burning through their cash reserves.

Reiterating that Zomato expected adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) to break even in two to four quarters, Chief Executive Officer Deepinder Goyal said it is trading "low quality growth for better unit economics."

But brokerage ICICI Securities warned the EBITDA target "would require careful calibration of employee expenses and marketing spends."

Goyal said Zomato had already "pocketed a large portion of the low hanging (margin) gains."

The average rating is "buy" and median price target is 85 rupees, about 22% above current levels, according to Refinitiv data.

(Reporting by Akansha Victor and Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Rashmi Aich)