Airbnb may seek direct offering instead of IPO

San Francisco

HOME rental company Airbnb may eschew an IPO in favour of a direct listing, according to a Bloomberg report, following a rocky summer of tech public offerings.

Investors over the course of the summer have cast doubt about tech startups' ability to survive on the public markets, starting with ride-hailing giant Lyft, whose value sank to US$11.6 billion Tuesday, or roughly half of when it started trading in March. Uber's shares are down nearly a third. This week, coworking-space company WeWork postponed its IPO indefinitely.

If Airbnb chooses to go the route of a direct listing, it could help shield the company from some of the same scrutiny faced by its peers, as well as limit the costs associated with an IPO. That's the route messaging company Slack took, although its stocks are also down significantly since starting trading this summer.

Investors are casting a wary eye on big-spending tech companies, which frequently tout the need to reinvest over delivering a profit to shareholders. That's fine when a company is privately held, but the recently public companies are finding out that being publicly traded can bring additional - sometimes unwelcome - scrutiny.

It's unclear whether Airbnb is profitable. CNBC and Bloomberg have reported that Airbnb earned a small profit in 2017. The company said in September that its second quarter revenue was "substantially more than US$1 billion", the second such quarter in its history.

Airbnb did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Airbnb previously announced it would go public in 2020, without providing details.

Since its founding in 2008, San Francisco-based Airbnb has grown into a home-rental platform with more than 7 million rental listings across nearly 200 countries, according to the company.

Airbnb has also attracted significant criticism from governments, housing advocates and the hospitality industry, who say the company facilitates illegal short-term renting and puts additional housing pressure on cities already struggling with the issue.

No matter what course the company takes, Baird senior research analyst Michael Bellisario said the hotel industry will be watching closely.

"The competitive threats to the hotel industry have been significant this cycle," he said, adding that alternative accommodation like those offered by Airbnb have had a large impact on the industry. WASHINGTON POST