Airbnb turns to private equity to raise $1 billion

Airbnb said Monday that it has raised $1 billion in debt and equity from private equity firms Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners, even as the online rental marketplace has seen its business plummet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It’s unclear how this funding might alter Airbnb’s previously shared plans to go public.

COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, prompted governments throughout the world to issue stay-at-home orders, triggering a wave of cancellations in the travel and hospitality industries. Airbnb emphasized that the funds would support its ongoing work to invest over the long term, a statement aimed at couching this raise as strategic and not a bailout in troubled times. 

“While the current environment is clearly a difficult one for the hospitality industry, the desire to travel and have authentic experiences is fundamental and enduring,” Silver Lake co-CEO and managing partner Egon Durban said in a statement. “Airbnb’s diverse, global, and resilient business model is particularly well suited to prosper as the world inevitably recovers and we all get back out to experience it.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky acknowledged Monday that while the desire to connect and travel has been reinforced during this time, the “way it manifests will evolve as the world changes.”

Airbnb is betting how and where people work will evolve. As a result, the company said it will direct its attention and new funds toward three core products: hosts, long-term stays and Airbnb experiences.

Last month, Airbnb said it would direct $250 million to help hosts who have been impacted by COVID-19. The funds will be used to pay a host 25% of what they would normally receive through their cancellation policy if a guest cancels a reservation due to COVID-19 between March 14 and May 31. Airbnb said this policy applies retroactively to all cancellations during that period.

The move was an attempt by Airbnb to make amends to its hosts who complained that the company’s policy would allow guests to cancel reservations and receive a full refund. That policy, which is still active, lets guests who booked reservations on or before March 14 that begin anytime on or before May 31 to cancel and receive a standard refund or travel credit.