After years of speculation, it looks like Airbnb is going public—but not any time soon.
The company has been venture-funded to date and has raised $4.4 billion from investors such as General Atlantic Managing Director and Head of Internet Anton Levy, actor Ashton Kutcher, and Catalyst Partners co-founder Joel Cutler, not to mention companies like China Broadband Capital, CrunchFund, GGV Capital, and Fidelity Investments.
Airbnb recently announced that it raised $1 billion in a 2016 funding round, bringing the company’s value to $31 billion and making it the second highest-valued startup after rideshare app Uber (valued at $69 billion).
The company became profitable on an EBITDA basis in the second half of 2016 and anticipates it will be profitable in 2017 as well.
And now, Airbnb has announced that it will indeed go public, but not soon.
Unlike many startups, Airbnb has a pretty slow burn rate, which, along with a focus on revenues, has led it to earn an estimated $100 million in profits last year. Rumor has it that the company will be forecasting an EBITDA of $450 million or $2.8 billion in revenue for 2017.
To build on the momentum of its growth, it is branching out to broaden its sources of revenue. Its Trips platform, launched in November of 2016, allows users to add experiences designed and led by local experts. It also plans to expand into other travel services such as ground transport, grocery delivery, and “something involving flights,” according to a recent article in Fortune.
This all bodes well for Airbnb’s future growth, and investors are anxiously awaiting the day when the company makes its IPO.
But even when the company does go public, investing in it will come with some risks. In cities across the U.S. and around the world, Airbnb is facing fights with officials who say the service takes affordable housing off the market and drives up rents.
In June of 2016, the city of San Francisco approved legislation that requires anyone listing property on Airbnb or other sites to register that property with the city. The company is now subject to a fine of $1,000 per day for each listing that is not registered with the city.
The New York State Senate passed a bill to make it illegal for hosts to advertise short-term rentals of less than 30 days on Airbnb. The company was going to fight the legislation, but it agreed to cooperate as long as the state fined the hosts rather than the company itself.
Airbnb’s legal troubles are not just domestic, though. The city of Berlin is demanding that the company turn over information allowing it to enforce a law that will levy a fine of as much as $110,000 per listing on people renting out more than half of their homes for less than two months. In Barcelona, unlicensed properties are subject to a fine of $65,000 per listing, and in Amsterdam, the city is looking through company data to ensure that there are no illegal listings.
It may be better for Airbnb not to go public until these legal issues are resolved, especially since its reportedly $30 billion valuation might not hold up if illegal listings in New York and San Francisco were to disappear.
“They are raising now at a higher valuation, but if you were to say ‘here is what the New York and San Francisco markets are really worth in full legal compliance’ and then re-run the numbers—however they do it—I don’t know that they are still a $30 billion company,” said Bradley Tusk, a former aid to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
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