Airbnb warns that the Delta variant could disrupt travel
By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business
(CNN) -- Airbnb had a blockbuster second quarter, with revenue soaring nearly 300% and topping expectations. But it also reported some bad news: The company is worried about the Delta variant's impact on consumers' future travel plans.
The company benefited from more people taking vacations in the spring and summer, but Airbnb says the next few months could be extremely bumpy. Shares of Airbnb fell nearly 2% in late morning trading Friday on the company's warning.
"In the near term," Airbnb said in its earnings letter to shareholders, Covid and new variants including Delta "will continue to affect overall travel behavior, including how often and when guests book and cancel." As a result, Airbnb's future bookings "will continue to be more volatile and non-linear."
Airbnb did try to reassure investors that it believes the impact will be temporary, however. And the company also said in its shareholder letter that it expects third-quarter revenue to be its strongest on record.
Analysts are currently forecasting that Airbnb will report revenue of nearly $1.9 billion in the third quarter, up from sales of $1.3 billion in the second quarter.
Many other travel and leisure companies are facing similar challenges. Shares of Disney, which also reported strong earnings Thursday, hotel chains Marriott and Hyatt, and top airline Delta have also lagged the broader market this year.
As for Airbnb, Wall Street had a mixed reaction to the financial results and guidance released late Thursday.
Wells Fargo analyst Brian Fitzgerald raised his price target on the stock to $210, more than 40% above Airbnb's current price.
Fitzgerald praised the company for adding inventory in high-demand markets, noting that as more companies delay plans for workers to return to offices, Airbnb should benefit from more people looking to book long-term stays, particularly in nonurban markets.
"We continue to expect that the post-covid travel landscape will be one characterized by greater work flexibility and longer stays," he wrote in a report, adding that Airbnb "remains best positioned to serve emerging demand trends.'
But Mizuho Americas analyst James Lee is more concerned, noting in a report that growth levels compared to the pre-pandemic period of 2019 may trail Wall Street's forecasts "due to uncertainties related to rising covid cases."
Lee has a "neutral" rating on the stock, adding that Airbnb shares are trading "still at a significant premium to peers" in the travel sector.
Airbnb has had a turbulent ride on Wall Street, ever since the company went public late last year in one of the most anticipated debuts of a so-called unicorn startup in quite some time. Shares more than doubled on their first day of trading in December 2020, but they're flat in 2021, trailing the broader market's double-digit percentage gains.
Airbnb's stock is also trading more than 30% below the all-time high it hit in February. But it's still worth more than $90 billion — nearly three times the market value of Hilton.
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