Last year, 159 companies made initial public offerings in the U.S. — a decent number, though hardly a spectacular one. If 2019 public offerings had a theme, it was the year of the disappointing unicorn. Uber and Lyft both went public, and both now trade well below their offering price. Even more notoriously…
WeWork scuttled its IPO plans completely — a rather drastic comedown from an offering that would have valued the company at $48 billion. According to PitchBook, the total value of the year’s public offerings was $33 billion, a drop of nearly 30% compared to 2018.
All this casts a bit of a shadow over 2020—but it turns out, there’s still plenty of billion-dollar plus activity in that shadow. Here’s what we’re keeping an eye on in the year ahead.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Last September, the ur-unicorn declared its intent to become a publicly traded company in 2020, instantly making it the year’s most anticipated offering. The home-rental behemoth was most recently valued at $31 billion in a 2017 funding round. (Last March, Recodereported that an internal valuation put the figure at $38 billion.) Founded in 2008 after RISD-grad roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia started renting out an air mattress in their San Francisco living room and decided that the idea of home bed-and-breakfast could scale, Airbnb has asserted that it was profitable in 2017 and 2018. More recentreports, however, say that rising costs pushed it into the red for the nine months ending in September — and that this and the uncertain impact of the coronavirus mean the offering may not happen until the second half of 2020. Many reports suggest that the company is one of several that may issue shares by way of a direct listing — meaning current investors will be able to sell their shares, but the company itself is not raising money. Slack and Spotify are the marquee examples of firms that have taken this route, but Airbnb is part of a small pack that may follow suit this year.