Airbnb (ABNB 6.87%) had its initial public offering late in 2020, and the stock has seen some volatile trading since then. The company's shares now trade roughly 37% below market close on the day of its public debut, and investors may be wondering if it's a good time to build a position in this travel player. Before you make a decision, consider the bull and bear cases presented by these two Motley Fool contributors.
Keith Noonan: Airbnb is a category-leading player in the accommodation-rental space, and its stock has been unfairly pressured in the recent market rout for growth stocks. Despite the company's strong business and an impressive growth outlook, its shares are down roughly 45% year to date and 58% from their lifetime high. Long-term investors should consider pouncing on the opportunity to buy the stock at currently discounted levels.
Now that pandemic-related restrictions have eased in most of the world, Airbnb is on track for record business performance this year. The number of nights and experiences booked through the company's platform increased 59% year over year to reach 102.1 million in the first quarter. Along with improving pricing strength, this helped push overall revenue up 70% to reach $1.5 billion in the period. Performance for the remainder of the year likely stands to be even more impressive.
Airbnb has an asset-light, highly scalable business and a massive runway for expansion. The business looks poised to shift into significant profitability this year, and last-quarter's gross margin of roughly 76% suggests huge earnings growth potential down the line. The company has proven itself to be flexible amid challenges faced in recent years, and it has huge addressable markets in accommodation rentals and local experience bookings.
For long-term investors looking for growth plays, Airbnb offers one of the best risk-reward profiles on the market right now.
Parkev Tatevosian: My bear case for Airbnb acknowledges the company's excellent prospects in the near term. Many folks delayed traveling in the early stages of the pandemic, and that pent-up demand is unleashing as vaccinations against the coronavirus expand. Instead, my case against investing in Airbnb will center on the lack of established profitable operations and the downside of its asset-light business model.
Airbnb doesn't own or operate any of the listings on its platform. It brings together prospective travelers with hosts that have places they'd like to rent for several days or more. Airbnb takes a commission and facilitates payments from each transaction on the platform but mainly leaves hosts and guests to communicate details among themselves. That hands-off approach to the customer experience can have a downside.
Airbnb can't ensure a consistent, high-quality guest experience. You never really know what you'll get with an Airbnb stay. Some hosts will go out of their way to ensure the guest is happy, while others will ignore phone calls and emails. That's in stark contrast to traditional hotels and resorts, which generally provide a uniform experience.
Airbnb has grown from $2.5 billion in revenue in 2017 to $6 billion in revenue in 2021. To achieve similar growth over the next several years, it must increasingly rely on newer hosts with less experience to join and list properties for rent, potentially decreasing the overall quality of the guest experience.
Finally, despite its fast growth and asset-light business model, Airbnb has yet to achieve profitability on the bottom line for a full fiscal year. It made significant progress in 2021, expanding operating income to $542 million on revenue of $6 billion, but it still reported a loss per share of $0.57.
Is Airbnb a buy?
Airbnb's growth-dependent valuation and exposure to macroeconomic pressures mean there are significant risk factors associated with the stock. However, the big declines in the company's share price have also corresponded with very strong business performance. The disconnect could be worth pouncing on for investors who aren't deterred by the volatility currently shaping the broader market. For patient investors, Airbnb stock has the potential to be a massive winner.