Airbnb, the accommodation-booking platform, said on Thursday that it plans to go public next year, making the announcement a day after it reported more than $1bn in second-quarter revenue.
The 11-year-old company stands to be among the biggest listings in 2020, having been valued at $31bn in its most recent funding round. But a series of rocky debuts for other so-called unicorns has raised questions about the durability of investor demand for new offerings.
Airbnb said on Wednesday that it made “substantially more” than $1bn in revenue in the second quarter of 2019 and that Airbnb hosts — people who rent out rooms or apartments on the platform — have made more than $80bn from renting their homes since it was created.
At a conference in May 2018, Airbnb’s chief executive Brian Chesky said that the company would “be ready” for an IPO in 2019 but added that it was not definite. “We have investors who are really patient, and I want to make sure it’s a benefit [to them] when we do.”
On Thursday, it put out a short public statement saying: “Airbnb Inc announced today that it expects to become a publicly traded company during 2020.”
A company spokesperson said that it had “nothing more to add” on the timing next year or whether it had already filed confidential documents to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for a listing.
The company has also not confirmed whether it will go public via a direct listing — in which no new shares would be offered but existing investors could sell — or the more traditional initial public offering.
Airbnb will join a host of Silicon Valley peers making their stock market debuts after having been able to grow much larger using only private capital than used to be the case.
However, highly anticipated listings from Uber and Lyft have performed poorly due to mounting concerns over their profitability and regulatory setbacks, and office space group WeWork has postponed its IPO after negative investor reaction. There is risk in Airbnb waiting until 2020, if the long economic expansion begins to slow.
Despite high-profile flops, the US IPOX Index — a measure of recent IPO and spin-off performance — has been “soaring over the US benchmark indices”, said Jefferies analyst Sean Darby. But he views the current climate as “eerily similar” to the late 1990s when the Federal Reserve was easing rates just as tech stocks boomed. A tech sector crash followed.
Airbnb is “trying to be more systematic with their IPO and have an approach on corporate governance that is more thoughtful after seeing what happened with WeWork”, said Michael Underhill, chief investment officer for Capital Innovations. “They are being cautious on how they’re communicating and proceeding with their IPO.”
Airbnb, which was founded in 2008, has expanded in recent years beyond its original business helping local hosts lending out spare rooms or beds.
In April it invested $100m in the fast growing Indian hotel chain Oyo, and in March bought the hotel booking site HotelTonight. In 2016, it also launched an “Experiences” arm that offers guests the opportunity to try cooking, tours or other activities in the destinations they visit.
As Airbnb has muscled in on hotels’ territory, it also faces greater competition in the home rental market from hotel brands such as Marriott and the online travel agents Booking and Expedia.
Cities across Southern Europe have blamed Airbnb for the rise of short-term lets, which they say is pushing locals out by driving up property prices. It has also faced a crackdown by regulators in major hubs such as New York and London. In London it now operates a 90-day limit on the number of nights a property can be let per year.
In May, Airbnb appointed Apple’s former head of retail and ex-Burberry executive Angela Ahrendts to its board as a non-executive director, citing her “reputation for pushing brands to dream big”.
Additional reporting by Richard Henderson in New York