This year has played host to an exceptionally large class of initial public offerings (IPOs). A whopping 420 companies have conducted IPOs on the U.S. market through Dec. 4 -- more than any full year since 1999. Those who have been watching the stock market closely know that it's been an especially busy and eye-catching year for initial public offerings in the technology sector -- with big software companies including Snowflake (SNOW -1.57%) and Unity Software (U -4.00%) notching huge gains in debuts and continuing to show very strong momentum.
Plenty of technology companies with recent or upcoming public debuts have notable competitive advantages and the potential to deliver fantastic stock performance. However, I think 2020's best tech IPO has yet to hit the market. Read on to see why this industry leader with a fast-approaching market debut stands out as the best IPO stock to buy in December -- and one of the best overall stocks to add to your portfolio this month.
Book a trip to growth with Airbnb's upcoming market debut
There's a good chance you're already familiar with Airbnb -- an online vacation-rental company that's scheduled to price its first public share offering on Wednesday, Dec. 9, and then begin trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker ABNB on Thursday, Dec. 10. Whether you've used the company to book a rental, hosted guests at your property, or simply heard about the services offered on its platform, Airbnb has become synonymous with its product category. In my opinion, Airbnb is also the most exciting IPO of the year -- by far.
The company provides a platform that connects property owners with travelers seeking short-term stays and generates revenue by charging a fee on each booking conducted through its site. Even though it makes a substantial commission fee on each booking, it's not unusual to find rooms or apartments that are nicer, less expensive, and more convenient than what's being offered by hotels in the nearby area. Users can even rent out full houses.
Today, more than 4 million hosts in more than 220 countries have listed rental properties through the site, and the company's platform has logged more than 825 million guest arrivals. Airbnb is already a disruptive force in the travel and hospitality industry, and it's helped pioneer a market that looks poised for huge growth.
Other promising tech companies have had stellar public market debuts this year. However, I struggle to find a single name among the tech IPOs over the last two years that has bigger market advantages and greater growth potential than Airbnb.
Airbnb by the numbers
Airbnb plans on pricing its stock between $44 and $50 per share at its market debut. That would value the company at roughly $35 billion if management opts to price shares at the high end of that range.
Barring any unexpected circumstances shaking up the broader market or injecting dramatic new elements of uncertainty ahead of the company's market debut, I fully expect that Airbnb shares will soar on the first day of trading. Even more importantly, the stock stands a good chance of delivering even greater returns in the years to come.
The coronavirus pandemic squeezed the company's business this year, with revenue falling 32% year over year across the first nine months of 2020 to come in at $2.5 billion. However, the business was posting strong growth prior to this year's unprecedented circumstances, and Airbnb stands out as one of the best post-coronavirus stocks for growth-focused investors looking for opportunities as the world moves closer to a state of normalcy.
Total gross bookings across the company's platform climbed 29% year over year in 2019 to reach $38 billion, and annual revenue for the year rose 32% to reach $4.8 billion. The business has also been free-cash-flow positive (FCF) in recent years, posting FCF of $97.3 million in 2019 and $504.9 million in 2018.
Airbnb is still spending big on advertising, marketing, and strengthening its technology platform. The business is currently operating at a loss, but this is mostly a function of the big spending that the company is undertaking in order to drive growth and shore up its leadership position in a rapidly expanding market. The focus on continuing to grow the business means that net income and free cash flow will likely see substantial fluctuations from year to year, but the foundations are already in place for the business to be very profitable over the long term. The company's gross margins are very strong (roughly 75% in 2019), and there's room for big earnings growth as revenue expands.
A rare and exciting opportunity
Airbnb has the makings of a genuine cash cow as its reach expands and the need for growth spending diminishes. I don't just think this stock is a favorite to be the best-performing tech IPO this month -- I think it has the chance to be the best company to go public this year. I'll be scrambling to buy shares as soon as they are listed on Thursday, and I believe that investors who build an early position in the company could enjoy life-changing returns.