Airbnb’s IPO filing reveals huge COVID impact

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today. Airbnb revealed plans for an initial public offering on Monday and acknowledged that its home-sharing business has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.  Revenue declined 72% amid the coronavirus […]

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Airbnb revealed plans for an initial public offering on Monday and acknowledged that its home-sharing business has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Revenue declined 72% amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to the filing, leading to 1,800 job cuts in May. Since then, the company has tried to adapt its business to changing traveler behavior.

“In the depths of this crisis, some people asked, ‘Is this the end of Airbnb?,” Airbnb executives and co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nate Blecharczyk said in a letter to shareholders. “It was not the end of Airbnb.”

The company, which plans to trade on Nasdaq under the symbol ABNB, showed that it still has massive annual losses. But it has had some profitable quarters, including the third quarter of this year.

Airbnb had planned an IPO earlier this year, but it was delayed because of the pandemic. It finally filed confidentially to go public in August, but waiting until now to makes its paperwork public.

Here are three things to know about Airbnb’s IPO. 

The COVID effect

The coronavirus has taken a massive toll on the travel industry, which in turn has created a major challenge for Airbnb. 

During the fourth quarter of last year, Airbnb raked in $1.11 billion in revenue. But by the second quarter of this year, which covered the height of the pandemic, Airbnb’s revenue had dwindled to $334.78 million, down 72% year-over-year. The rising number of cancellations and slowing number of bookings ballooned Airbnb’s losses to $575.6 million in the third quarter, compared to a $337.9 million profit during the same period one year prior. 

But Airbnb began to get some reprieve beginning in May, when people started returning to the service mostly for local travel and remote work. From July to September, the number of stays and “experiences,” Airbnb lingo for tours and lessons, had stabilized—albeit down 28% year over year.

To counter the slowdown, Airbnb took several cost-cutting measures. In addition to cutting 25% of its workforce, Airbnb also reduced its marketing spending, cut bonuses for 2020, reduced executive salaries for six months, and suspended all new office construction. 

As a result of the cost-cutting measures, Airbnb reported a $219.3 million third-quarter profit on $1.34 billion in revenue. That compares with a $297.4 million loss on $1.21 billion in sales during the year prior.  

Massive losses

Airbnb still has a long way to go to becoming consistently profitable, and the coronavirus will likely play a big part in determining that timeline.

Last year, prior to suffering any effects from the pandemic, the company lost $674.33 million, far greater than its $16.9 million loss in 2018. Meanwhile, in the first nine months of 2020, the company has already lost $696.9 million, more than during all of 2019. 

Airbnb warned to expect more losses in the fourth quarter, as infection rates continue to climb.

“While we have enacted measures to reduce our expenses, we expect to incur a significant net loss for 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said in the filing.

Before the pandemic, Airbnb’s revenue was steadily growing, to $4.81 billion in 2019, up from $3.65 billion in 2018 and $2.56 billion in 2017. During the first nine months of 2020, Airbnb had $2.52 billion in sales, down 32% from the same time last year. 

The path ahead

In its filing, Airbnb included a lengthy list of business risks—particularly whether hosts and guests remain on the service through the pandemic. 

Airbnb said it had 54 million guests who booked 247 million stays on the service last year. In 2019, the number of booking increased 31%, following a 35% increase the year prior.

Airbnb said it plans to emphasize domestic travel, especially by customers who take trips that are near their homes and longer-term stays.

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