Airbnb (ABNB -2.16%) and Roku (ROKU -3.83%) were both red-hot growth stocks in 2021. Airbnb's stock closed at a record high of $216.84 last February, but it now trades at about $85. Roku's stock hit an all-time high of $479.50 per share last July, but it now trades at just over $40.

Airbnb and Roku both crashed as inflation, rising interest rates, and other macro headwinds drove investors away from pricier growth stocks. But could either of these former market darlings make a comeback next year?

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Airbnb continues to grow through tough times

Airbnb's revenue plunged 30% in 2020 as global travel and tourism ground to a halt during the pandemic. But its revenue surged 77% in 2021 as those headwinds dissipated, then rose another 46% year over year to $6.5 billion in the first nine months of 2022. It expects its revenue to increase 38%-40% to $8.3-$8.4 billion for the full year.

Airbnb's profits are also rising along with its revenue. Its net loss narrowed from $4.6 billion in 2020 to $352 million in 2021, which turned into a net profit of $1.57 billion in the first nine months of 2022. Its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) improved from a loss of $251 million in 2020 to a profit of $1.6 billion in 2021, and it generated an even higher adjusted EBITDA of $2.4 billion in the first nine months of 2022.

It didn't provide any earnings guidance for the full year, but analysts expect the company to post a net profit of $1.73 billion with an adjusted EBITDA of $2.82 billion. Those surging profits indicate economies of scale are kicking in as more hosts and guests join its platform.

Unlike many of the pandemic-era growth stocks that now face tough year-over-year comparisons in a post-pandemic market, Airbnb should keep growing at a steady clip as long as another pandemic doesn't shut down global travel. It's also well-insulated from the inflationary headwinds, which could actually force budget-conscious consumers to choose cheaper Airbnb rentals over pricier hotels, while motivating its hosts to rent out their properties to generate more passive income.

Roku faces challenges in a post-pandemic world

Roku, which sells streaming video devices and operates an ad-supported operating system for first-party and third-party devices, faces a much harder post-pandemic landing than Airbnb. Its sales of streaming devices and ad sales surged during the pandemic as more people stayed at home. Its revenue jumped 58% in 2020, then rose 55% in 2021.

But in the first nine months of 2022, Roku's revenue only rose 19% year over year to $2.26 billion. It blamed that slowdown on tough year-over-year comparisons to the pandemic, supply chain constraints for its streaming devices, and macro headwinds for digital ad sales on its software platform. It expects its revenue to decrease about 8% year over year in the fourth quarter, which implies its revenue will only increase 2% for the full year.

On the bright side, Roku's active accounts still rose 16% year over year to 65.4 million in the third quarter of 2022, while its average revenue per user (ARPU) are still improving sequentially and year over year.

But its profits are also crumbling as it sells its players at a loss and its advertising margins wither. After generating a net profit of $242 million in 2021, Roku racked up a net loss of $261 million in the first nine months of 2022 as its core businesses sputtered out. Its adjusted EBITDA also plummeted 97% year over year to $11 million.

To make matters worse, Roku ramped up its spending -- especially on its ad-supported Roku Channel -- as its top-line growth cooled off.

The valuations and verdict

Airbnb and Roku both got overheated during the feverish growth stock rally in 2021. But today Airbnb and Roku both look a lot cheaper at six and two times next year's sales, respectively. Airbnb might seem like the pricier pick, but it's growing faster and faces fewer competitive and macroeconomic challenges than Roku in a post-pandemic market.

Therefore, it makes more sense to buy Airbnb, which was unfairly crushed along with other growth stocks over the past year, than Roku (which arguably deserved to give up all of its pandemic-era gains) as a turnaround play for 2023.