The key risks for the company are US laws and regulation on its dashers and whether they must be recognized as employees or not. Growth decay after a strong 2020 is also a concern as revenue growth could stall as soon as the Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out and people are maybe returning to dining out and ordering less take-away. The network effects are not strong on the platform and thus competition is high including from well-capitalised companies such as GrubHub and Uber. The company’s revenue is derived entirely from the US market and thus the company has not proved that it can scale and delivery service internationally. With Delivery Hero in Europe and Meituan in China an international expansion might not be easy without costly acquisitions and integrations.
Airbnb is a pure play on travel rebound the next two years
This IPO was on track to happen over a year ago, but less frothy markets and suddenly a global pandemic postponed one of the most anticipated IPOs on Wall Street for many years. Airbnb raised overnight its IPO price range to $56-60 from $44-50 per share lifting the fully diluted valuation to $42bn. The company will likely price its shares on Wednesday and start trading on Thursday under the Saxo ticker code ABNB:xnas.
Airbnb is a platform that enables home sharing on globally connecting renters and rentees but differentiates itself from the traditional travel industry that offers highly commoditized offerings through resorts and hotels. Home sharing plays on experiences and in the age of individualism and ‘Instagram moments’. Airbnb has essentially through technology and clever branding expanded a formerly dusted category (home sharing has always existed) and created explosive growth until Covid-19 which has negatively impacted the business.
Annual nights and experiences booked reached 326.9mn in 2019 growing at 31% but due to Covid-19 the number plunged to only 28mn in Q2 a whopping 66.6% decline from Q2 2019. However, the business has rebounded in Q3 reaching almost the levels from Q3 2018. Even more impressively the company had been free cash flow positive for four years before Covid-19 and while the business has been hemorrhaging cash in the two first quarters, the third quarter delivered a positive free cash flow of $328mn partly driven by a strong rebound using less marketing spending letting the brand and the natural rebound do the work.
What the numbers also show is that the domestic bookings have fully recovered while international bookings are still down substantially (see charts). As the Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out it is our expectations that travelling will rebound to levels seen before Covid-19. We also believe it will happen faster than what the market is currently believing. While we are positive on leisure travelling we believe Covid-19 has permanently impacted business travelling in a negative way. We recommend investors to read the IPO prospectus from Airbnb for more information.