Skift Take

Message delivered: If Airbnb is concerned about the market's rollercoaster ride and the timing of its going public, then Bill Ackman's Pershing — and other special purpose acquisition companies — could take a little of the anxiety out of the process.

With the Nasdaq rocking and rolling since Wednesday and many tech stocks getting pummeled, Airbnb suitor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management preached the stability, and the $5 billion cash injection, that his special purpose acquisition company can offer.

“In this market our expectation was volatility to come, and certainty and a $5 billion injection of cash is something I wouldn’t walk away so quickly from,” Ackman, the founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, which has a more than 4 percent stake in Hilton, told Bloomberg Markets and Finance Thursday. “If our positions were reversed, and I was the CEO of a private company that needed to raise a lot of cash to go public and had to do it in a reasonable timeframe, I’d take a very hard look at what we offer.”

Ackman didn’t necessarily direct his remarks toward Airbnb; his SPAC is looking at a number of companies, many of which are controlled by private equity firms, but he seemed to have Airbnb in mind.

But Airbnb would seem to fit the portrait of a company that needs to raise cash, and wants to go public sooner rather than later as it faces the pressure of former and current employees with expiring stock options.

Ackman said Pershing could do a deal and resolve governance issues within 30 days of doing due diligence and getting access to inside information, and could take a company public 45-60 days after that.

On the other hand, he said, Airbnb seems to be favoring a traditional initial public offering over a SPAC, but with an IPO, Airbnb wouldn’t know with certainty how much money it would be raising until the final days of its road show.

Ackman argued that Pershing, on the other hand, could give a target company certainty after 30 days.

“A $5 billion IPO is a very large IPO,” Ackman said. “Other than Alibaba, Facebook and Uber, there has not been a $5 billion-plus IPO in the U.S. for the last decade.”

SPACs are public companies set up to merge with private companies, and thereby get them trading on stock markets in a streamlined fashion.

He said published reports that Airbnb “rebuffed” his company’s overtures weren’t true, although indeed Airbnb is tilting toward an IPO. Ackman said in discussions with Airbnb, his team engaged with several senior members of Airbnb management, but didn’t get a look at the company’s financials and how it works internally.

The two parties didn’t discussion valuations, Ackman added.

If stock markets don’t rebound in the next few weeks, or exhibit protracted volatility, it’s not inconceivable that Airbnb would take a second look at the special purpose acquisition company route.

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Tags: airbnb, alternative accommodations, short-term rentals, spac, venture capital

Photo credit: Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management discussed talks with Airbnb about his special purpose acquisition company on September 3, 2020. Bloomberg Markets Bloomberg

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