Airbnb plans to go public next year

On Wednesday, Airbnb reported second-quarter revenue of more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) and said it had more than seven million listings in 100,000 cities around the world. LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO
On Wednesday, Airbnb reported second-quarter revenue of more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) and said it had more than seven million listings in 100,000 cities around the world. LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

SAN FRANCISCO • Airbnb said on Thursday that it plans to go public next year, becoming one of the last of a generation of prominent technology start-ups to aim for the stock market, even as some of its brethren have struggled since listing their shares.

The online lodging rental company gave little detail about when in 2020 it plans to go public, beyond a one-sentence announcement.

On Wednesday, Airbnb reported second-quarter revenue of more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) and said it had more than seven million listings in 100,000 cities around the world.

When it goes public, Airbnb - valued by private investors at US$31 billion - will be one of the most highly valued public offerings to hit the market since this spring, when a rash of hot start-ups, including Uber, Lyft, Slack and Pinterest, listed their shares.

Making a public statement about going public in a particular year is unusual among technology start-ups, which typically keep their plans secret.

But Airbnb made the move as it explored offering equity to the "hosts" who list their homes on its site, according to three people familiar with the situation, who declined to be named because the plans were confidential.

Under securities law, Airbnb has to unveil its plans to go public before it can offer shares to the hosts.

Airbnb is considering several non-traditional approaches to its public offering, including a direct listing, the people said. In a direct listing, a company lists shares on a public market without raising any additional capital.

The method has gained traction in recent years as streaming service Spotify and business software company Slack have adopted it.

This year, some of the most prominent start-ups - known as unicorns because they were valued at US$1 billion and more by private investors - have run into trouble as they tried to reach the stock market or after they went public.

The stock prices of ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have plunged, as has the share price of Slack. All of the companies, which are unprofitable, had been hugely hyped on their way to listing their shares.

This week, WeWork, another deeply unprofitable start-up, postponed its initial public offering altogether after a cold reception from investors.

The shared office space giant had been expected to begin a roadshow to market the shares this week, but has faced deep scepticism about its business model and corporate governance.

Airbnb's public offering will cap off a decade of start-up growth driven by the spread of mobile phones, cheap cloud computing and gig economy workers.

The company, founded in 2009, has raised more than US$4 billion in venture funding, according to Crunchbase.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2019, with the headline 'Airbnb plans to go public next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe