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Airbnb Plans Huge IPO in 2020, Continuing Push By Tech Companies to Go Public

September 19, 2019, 8:05 PM UTC

Airbnb said on Thursday that it would file for an initial public offering in 2020, marking what will be another in a string of huge Wall Street debuts for tech companies. 

Airbnb, which rents homes to vacationers, did not give a specific timeline for its planned IPO. Some investors had expected the company to go public this year, like many of its tech peers did, including Uber, Lyft, Zoom, and Pinterest.

Whatever the case, Airbnb’s IPO promises to be a blockbuster. In its latest round of private financing in September 2017, the company was valued at $31 billion.

The news of Airbnb’s IPO plans follow mixed IPOs by fellow tech unicorns, the industry’s term for companies that are valued at $1 billion or higher. Zoom and Pinterest’s have reported strong quarters since their IPOs, sending their stocks soaring. Both companies are still trading above their debut pricing.

But shares of Uber and Lyft have steadily fallen since their public premieres, fueled by huge quarterly losses and the realization by investors that profits will be difficult to achieve, even in the long term.

Wall Street is showing some signs of impatience with money-losing companies filing for IPOs. The most vivid example is co-working office giant WeWork, which was initially expected to hold an IPO next week, but then delayed it after investors raised a litany of concerns over the company’s sky-high private valuation of $47 billion, huge losses, and the CEO’s tight control over the board.

“There has been a disconnect between what the private market is willing to value and what the public market supports,” said Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, an IPO research and investment firm. “Private valuations have been unsustainable in the public market.”

Regardless, 2019 has been a good year for IPOs, with the stronger performers outweighing the biggest losers, Smith added. 

Airbnb, led by co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, is not expected to be among some of the biggest money losers. Early this year, the company said it was profitable excluding interest, taxes, and other costs but did not reveal a net profit using generally accepted accounting standards. During the second quarter, the company said it had “substantially more than $1 billion” in revenue from more than 7 million listings on its service in more than 100,000 cities worldwide. 

“If Airbnb were a large money losing company, I would say it’s going to have trouble,” Smith said. “But I don’t think that’s the case.”

And the company, readying for the IPO, has been pushing to expand. 

In June, the Airbnb debuted a new luxury service called Luxe with more than 2,000 high-end rentals, including a French chateau, a Jamaican oceanfront villa, and a South African beach house. The service is expected to compete with Marriot’s luxury home-rental service, Homes & Villas.

Additionally, Airbnb recently acquired hotel room app HotelTonight, which was last valued at $463 million in March 2017. The app, which helps users find last-minute hotel rooms at discounted rates, bolstered Airbnb’s boutique hotel listings and was expected to help the company attract more customers. 

Airbnb has also been beefing up its executive team with hires like Fred Reid, the founding CEO of Virgin America who now oversees Airbnb’s transportation efforts. The company has yet to detail exactly what it plans for transportation, only saying it will include “ideas and partnerships that can make transportation better.”

Late last year, Airbnb brought on chief financial officer Dave Stephenson, the former vice president and finance chief of Amazon’s worldwide consumer organization responsible for the company’s global website sales.