Airbnb approves private share split ahead of IPO

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(Bloomberg) – Airbnb Inc. is splitting its privately held shares ahead of a planned initial public offering, according to an email reviewed by Bloomberg News.

The company said in an email to some of its shareholders that the board of directors has approved a 2-for-1 split of the shares. The split will be reflected in their accounts on Tuesday, according to the email.

The value of the shares has climbed 10.4% from its last valuation listed in compensation reports to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the email. A person familiar with the matter said the increase was from the end of the second quarter.

A representative for San Francisco-based Airbnb declined to comment.

Such valuations are based on what the IRS defines as the fair-market value of the shares at that point in time. Typically, they are estimates at the “low-end of a defensible valuation range performed by compliance experts” and are distinct from the calculations relied on by venture capitalists, according to Morgan Stanley’s Shareworks, which services corporate stock plans.

VC firms rarely even consider the so-called 409A valuations named for the tax code section, relying instead market values they negotiate with entrepreneurs, according to the Shareworks website.

Estimated Price
Before the split, the shares were valued at $69.76 each as of Sept. 30, compared with $63.15 at the end of the previous period, according to the email. After the split, the company’s common shares were valued at $34.88 apiece as of Sept. 30, according to the email.

The increase in Airbnb’s value coincides with the rebound of Airbnb books over the summer after the spring plunge caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Airbnb is seeking to raise as much as $3 billion in an IPO this year, people familiar with the matter have said. A 2-for-1 stock split reduces the price of the shares for IPO investors, while doubling the shares of current holders so the value of their holdings stays the same. The market value of the total number of shares in a stock split is unchanged.

The company said in August that it had filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO.

For More: Airbnb Files Confidentially for IPO With Travel Rebounding

Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky had originally intended to initiate the listing process with the SEC on March 31. That was before Covid-19 closed borders, grounded flights to a halt and left the company with more than $1 billion in cancellations.

Bookings Recovery
Airbnb bounced back from the pandemic more quickly than it expected, as people sought long-term, rural rentals to escape hot spots and take advantage of work-from-home opportunities. The company began seeing signs of recovery in June, with bookings down only 30% from the same month in 2019, people familiar with the matter have said. That compared with a 70% decline in May from a year earlier.

Airbnb was valued at $18 billion in April when it raised $2 billion in debt from investors at the depth of the pandemic. That was a significant drop from its earlier peak valuation of $31 billion in a 2017 fundraising round. The market value of the firm in an IPO will be based on the existing shares plus the newly issued ones.

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