Despite the luster of its eye-popping IPO, Airbnb reported a $4.6 billion net loss in 2020 in its first earnings report as a public company.
The hospitality startup, which is banking on a travel rebound, generated $3.4 billion in revenue last year, a 30 percent year-over-year decline. Although the pandemic whalloped the travel industry, Airbnb’s net loss was also driven by $2.8 billion worth of stock compensation expenses it incurred in its IPO in December.
During the fourth quarter, those expenses led to a staggering $3.9 billion net loss. But that wasn’t the only reason: During the last three months of the year, Airbnb generated $859 million in revenue, down 22 percent year over year.
Still, things could have been far worse.
With most major cities on lockdown last year, Airbnb projected its 2020 revenue could be less than half its $4.8 billion in earnings in 2019. Overnight, the company lost $1 billion in bookings and was forced to lay off 25 percent of its staff.
By August, travel began to pick up and Airbnb disclosed it would go public by the year’s end.
In a letter to shareholders Thursday, Airbnb said 2020 demonstrated the company’s “resilience.” The letter struck a hopeful tone that travel would continue to open up and Airbnb would be ready when it did.
During Airbnb’s first earnings call as a public company, CEO Brian Chesky outlined the company’s history — from its start in San Francisco through the pandemic and its IPO. “We are still in a pandemic and a lot of people are hurting,” he said. “We know how lucky we are to be in the position we’re in.”
He said despite facing the “biggest crisis the travel industry has ever seen,” Airbnb’s business model has been “inherently adaptable.”
“We don’t think we’re ever going back to the world of travel in 2019,” Chesky said. “A world of Zoom is a world where people can work from home or any home on Airbnb.” With increased flexibility, people are booking extended weekends, or they are traveling for weeks or months at a time. “Many people are snow birding,” he said.
Ahead of its earnings, Airbnb’s market cap was $108.8 billion, after closing at $200 per share on Feb. 24. The closing price was $182 per share on Thursday, after the Nasdaq Composite dropped 3 percent. (Airbnb reported its earnings after the market’s close.)