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Airbnb signage at the Nasdaq when the company went public. Photo by Bloomberg.
The Briefing
Entertainment Policy Travel

Airbnb Now Printing Cash—What Will Chesky Do Next?

By  |  Feb. 15, 2022 5:00 PM PST
Photo: Airbnb signage at the Nasdaq when the company went public. Photo by Bloomberg.

It has to be acknowledged when a company hits it out of the park, particularly one that doesn’t get much attention. Airbnb, as its fourth-quarter results tonight demonstrated, is one such company. Consider just this one statistic: In all of 2021, the company generated $2.2 billion in free cash flow—that’s the amount of cash produced by its business after spending on capex. It produced that cash on just $6 billion in revenue. That’s an Apple-like level of profitability and well above that achieved by big tech companies such as Alphabet.

What the fourth-quarter results also demonstrate is how resilient Airbnb’s business has proved to be, despite the initial collapse in travel sparked by the Covid-19 lockdowns. At that time, in the spring of 2020, things looked dicey. Airbnb had to borrow money and lay people off, but it quickly bounced back. International travel may not have recovered to its pre-pandemic levels, but Airbnb’s business has grown steadily nonetheless. Its fourth-quarter revenue, for instance, was 38% higher than it was two years earlier.

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