Airbnb could file to go public this month

According to The Wall Street Journal, Airbnb could file confidentially to go public as early as this month. The same report states that Airbnb could follow that filing with an IPO before year’s end. Morgan Stanley and Goldman are helping the former startup with its IPO process, the Journal writes.

The news that Airbnb’s IPO could be back on caps a tumultuous year for the home-sharing unicorn, which promised in 2019 to go public in 2020. The company was widely tipped to be considering a direct listing before COVID-19 arrived, crashing the global travel market, and with it, Airbnb’s financial health.

Airbnb declined to comment on its IPO plans.

As travelers stayed home, the company was forced to sharply cut staff and take on billions in capital at prices that, compared to its late 2019-momentum, looked rather expensive.

But since those blows, Airbnb has begun to make noise about positive progress regarding its platform usage, and, implicitly, its financial performance.

In June, Airbnb said that between “May 17 to June 6, 2020, there were more nights booked for travel to Airbnb listings in the US than during the same time period in 2019,” and that “globally, over the most recent weekend (June 5-7), we saw year-over-year growth in gross booking value” for “the first time since February.”

And in July, the company said that its users had “booked more than 1 million nights’ worth of future stays at Airbnb listings” globally in a single day, the first time since March 3rd that that had happened.

Precisely how far Airbnb has financially clawed its way back is not clear. But the company’s cost basis in the wake of its layoffs could lower the revenue base it needs to recover to reach something akin to profitability, a traditional IPO benchmark, though one that has lost luster in recent years.

And with local travel taking off — slowly-improving airline occupancy rates are, therefore, not indicative of Airbnb’s performance or health — the company could have retooled its business in the wake of COVID to something that can still put up attractive revenues at strong margins.

Needless to say, I am hyped to read the Airbnb S-1, so the sooner it drops the happier I’ll be. Getting an in-depth look at what happened to the unicorn during COVID-19 is going to be fascinating.

Airbnb joins DoorDash, Coinbase, Palantir and others on our IPO shortlist. More as we have it.