Skift Take

Many of Airbnb's previous funding rounds were oversubscribed. But if Airbnb indeed taps new venture capital funding, it won't have trouble finding benefactors. Still, the company's valuation will be considerably lower than the prior $31 billion.

Airbnb had $2 billion cash on hand at the end of 2019, but with losses mounting, and a direct listing or an initial public offering impossible as coronavirus-burdened stock markets flop, the short-term rental giant may try to raise funding privately from new investors.

[Update: A source close to Airbnb said some 20 parties, including individuals, venture firms, and other entities, contacted Airbnb in the past week expressing interest in investing in the still-privately held company. Tentative offers ranged from $100 million to $1 billion, according to the source, who didn’t know whether the 20 included any existing Airbnb investors.

When asked about this investor interest, Airbnb declined to comment.]

That’s the gist of a Wall Street Journal story Friday headlined Airbnb Racks Up Hundreds of Millions in Losses Due to Coronavirus.

The following are the main revelations in the story and our Skift Take on each:

Airbnb Seeks New Funding as Coronavirus Triggers Hundreds of Millions in Losses

Skift Take: It’s hardly surprising that Airbnb may need to seek additional funding, possibly from new investors, although such a scenario would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago. Having raised some $4.4 billion in funding in its history, coveting $2 billion in cash on hand at the end of 2019, and with a $31 billion valuation as of a couple of years ago, novel coronavirus has dragged Airbnb into this precarious situation.

Many airlines, online travel agencies and hotel chains are tapping out revolving credit lines, and seeking to borrow billions to get through the current crisis, so why would Airbnb be any different?

Like Marriott, who’s CEO reported Thursday that its China business is down 90 percent and is suffering a quarter more dire than its worst ever, the fourth quarter of 2001, Airbnb’s business is down some 90 percent in Asia, 75 percent in Europe, and 50 percent in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal story. Airbnb’s plight — at least in most of Europe and the United States — will not be improving any time soon.

A down round in which Airbnb’s valuation is lower than its previous $31 billion is highly likely if it raises new private funding within the next few months. That $31 billion valuation was part of the old reality, which has quickly been erased.

Get the Latest on Coronavirus and the Travel Industry on Skift’s Liveblog

Airbnb Hired Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Although Its Plans to Go Public in 2020 Are in Shambles

Skift Take: We believe that Airbnb had previously planned to do a direct listing instead of an initial public offering because it didn’t need to raise money, could save a ton on bankers’ fees, and mostly needed to trade as a public company as a means for employees to finally cash out their stock options.

But whether it’s direct listing or an initial public offering to raise proceeds, all bets are off for now because few companies would — or could — debut as a public entity in the current economic environment. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will be trying to figure out a path to the promised land for Airbnb but nothing can happen until stock markets rebound and Covid-19 subsides.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Told Employees Last Week It Will Still Go Public in 2020

Skift Take: It’s time for Chesky to conduct another meeting for employees or otherwise inform them of the bad news most probably already realize — going public in 2020 is not impossible, but unlikely.

Airbnb’s Board Read the Riot Act to Management Last Year About Out-of-Control Expenses

Skift Take: Is Airbnb a bloated company, like Barry Diller said of his own Expedia Group in February? The Airbnb board was angry about rising expenses as the company reversed a profitable 2017 and 2018, and turned its balance sheet red last year as it positioned itself with pumped-up marketing costs to go public this year.

Like many companies throughout the travel industry, Airbnb will have to make cost-cutting, including layoffs, a priority in the months ahead.

Some Airbnb Board Members Are Pissed It Didn’t Go Public Last Year

Skift Take: I’m angry I didn’t stock up —pun intended — on more toilet paper and bottled water two weeks ago. Airbnb will get its own stock symbol eventually, but it won’t happen when the citizenry of Airbnb’s home state of California, and other localities are sheltering at home to dodge coronavirus infections.

Airbnb declined to comment for this story.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect investor interest in funding Airbnb anew.

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Tags: airbnb, coronavirus, direct listings, funding, ipo, valuations

Photo credit: Airbnb co-founders (from left) Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Brian Chesky in 2017. The homesharing giant seeks new funding to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Airbnb

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