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Airbnb has rooms to grow

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There is pent-up demand for travel, budget airline easyJet reported today, and coupled with pent-up demand for the IPO of a 12-year-old company, Airbnb is likely to get a warm welcome from investors when it comes to market next month.

It deserves that. It requires some courage to go for an IPO amid a pandemic that continues to ravage the travel and hospitality industries. The company also took tough decisions earlier this year, with an expensive $2bn rescue package from private equity companies, a $400m cut in its advertising budget and the laying off of a quarter of its workforce.

A successful IPO will position it well for next year’s expected recovery. Sales were down nearly a third in the first three quarters of this year, says Lex, but they had been growing on average by 37 per cent annually between 2017 and 2019. Listings numbers have held up, so business should return, although its prospectus released on Monday said: “We do not believe it is possible to predict the Covid-19 pandemic’s cumulative and ultimate impact on our future business.”

Dave Lee and Miles Kruppa have five takeaways from the prospectus numbers, including slowing pre-pandemic revenue growth, but a lesser fall in sales than rivals during the first nine months of this year:

Airbnb sales fall but rivals were hit harder Column chart of Revenues, Q1 to Q3 ($bn) showing Airbnb sales fall but rivals were hit harder

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Tesla to join S&P 500 in December
The electric carmaker’s shares are up 9 per cent today on the news that it is to join the S&P 500 index of leading US stocks on December 21. This comes almost three months after Tesla first qualified to join the index, potentially adding to demand for its shares from new investors who track the index.

Bar chart of Market capitalisation, $tn showing At $387bn, Tesla would edge out JPMorgan Chase as the 10th-biggest member of the S&P 500

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2. Amazon Pharmacy launch, Pinduoduo raising
Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health shares fell more than 9 per cent and Rite Aid was down more than 16 per cent soon after Amazon announced a disruptive online delivery service on Tuesday, offering big discounts for prescription medicine in the US. Meanwhile, Chinese ecommerce player Pinduoduo is planning to raise as much as $5.6bn in the US so it can expand delivery of fruit and vegetables in China.

3. Chinese walls for competition
The big tech stocks in China were hit by antitrust moves by regulators last week. Our analysis looks at the competition concerns. For example, WeChat, the ubiquitous messaging app from Tencent, does not allow its users to share videos from Douyin, TikTok’s sister app, or to click on links that would take them to products on Alibaba’s Taobao ecommerce site.

China's unique internet ecosystem (sharing)

4. Huawei sells Honor
Huawei is selling its budget smartphone unit Honor to a Chinese government-backed consortium in an effort to ensure the brand’s survival after the US cut off access to component suppliers. No price was given for the transaction.

5. Best science books of 2020
We highlighted the best tech books of the year on Monday and our Science Editor Clive Cookson has also chosen his favourite titles. They include inevitably Covid-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One, The Rules of Contagion and, relevant to people like me who lost this sense with Covid, Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells.

Tech tools — Macs deliver on performance

The reviews are out as a trio of new Macs hit the stores featuring Apple’s game-changing M1 Arm-based chip. It appears Apple’s claims for its astounding performance are well founded. Techcrunch tested the 13in M1 MacBook Pro and concluded “this machine eclipses some of the most powerful Mac portables ever made in performance while simultaneously delivering 2x-3x the battery life at a minimum”. Engadget says the new MacBook Air has all-day battery life and is” incredibly fast and completely silent, since it has no fan”.

The Verge says the Mac mini “feels wonderfully fast day to day . . . and once Intel-optimized apps are open, performance feels indistinguishable from how they run on my fully loaded 16-inch MacBook Pro”. With reviews like these, consumers should have no fears buying these machines before developers have come out with the Arm-based applications that should offer even better performance. Windows laptop makers should be very afraid.



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IPOs / FFOs

Soho House owner files for New York flotation

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The owner of Soho House, the private members’ club, has filed for an initial public offering, as the company seeks to tap into investors’ growing interest in leisure stocks.

Membership Collective Group, which owns 28 Soho Houses worldwide among other properties and a retail brand, said on Monday that it plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “MCG”.

The company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it intends to raise $100m, a figure that is often used as a place holder for calculating registration fees. It has yet to determine the number of shares it will offer or a price range for those shares.

A rebound in travel and dining demand heading into summer, bolstered by vaccinations against Covid-19, has stoked speculation that MCG will target a valuation greater than the $2bn marker set in a $100m funding round last year.

The hospitality group, backed by US billionaire Ron Burkle, said its membership numbers held steady through the pandemic. It retained 92 per cent of Soho House members in the 2020 financial year and received more than 30,000 applications for its membership brands, according to the S-1 filing.

Revenues in the first quarter of this year totalled $72m, down from $142m in the same period a year earlier. It also reported a net loss of $93m, compared with a $45m loss in 2020.



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South Korean video game group behind hit ‘PUBG’ aims for $5bn IPO

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The company behind global hit game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds plans to raise up to Won5.6tn ($5bn) in an initial public offering that is expected to be South Korea’s largest ever.

Krafton said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday that it will sell more than 10m shares at Won458,000-Won557,000 each, with the top end of that range giving it a market capitalisation of Won28tn. The IPO price will be set on July 9 ahead of the company’s listing in Seoul on July 22.

The much-anticipated listing is likely to top that of Coupang, the leading South Korean ecommerce company that raised $4.6bn in New York in March.

Krafton, formerly known as Bluehole, was founded by Chang Byung-gyu in 2007. PUBG, a so-called battle royale game in which players fight to the death on a remote island, was released in 2017 and accounts for the bulk of Krafton’s revenues. The game has sold more than 75m copies across PC and consoles, while its mobile version has been downloaded more than 1bn times. Krafton’s operating profit more than doubled to Won774bn last year as sales jumped more than 50 per cent to Won1.67tn.

However, the company cited uncertainty in overseas expansion and domestic regulation as investment risks.

“Despite our successful experience in entering overseas markets, our past experience does not guarantee our future success given the different language, culture, custom and legal, regulatory environment,” Krafton said in its filing.

South Korea is on track for a record year for IPOs on huge retail investor interest. The benchmark Kospi index is trading near all-time highs, buoyed by ultra-low interest rates and the country’s strong economic recovery from Covid-19. Investment bankers have predicted that proceeds from IPOs will more than quintuple to at least Won25tn in 2021.

Other IPOs in the pipeline include LG Energy Solution, the world’s largest electric vehicle battery maker, which is expected to raise Won10tn-Won15tn in September. Hyundai Heavy Industries, a shipbuilder, is likely to raise $1bn-$1.5bn in August. Smaller deals include the IPOs of Kakao Pay and Kakao Bank, units of the country’s dominant messenger service provider.

“The Krafton IPO will be popular among investors, given investors’ growing interest in new growth areas such as EV batteries, games and online businesses,” said an investment banker close to the deal. “But the company is heavily reliant on just one game and it is uncertain how long the game’s popularity will last.”

Some analysts have raised concerns about Krafton’s high valuation based on its IPO pricing.

“Krafton’s valuation seems stretched, considering that its market cap will surpass NCSoft’s, although NCSoft is making more money than Krafton,” said a local analyst referring to one of the company’s competitors.

Krafton plans to use the IPO proceeds to develop new games, acquire other developers, enter markets including India and the Middle East and invest in technologies such as artificial intelligence.

After the IPO, Chang will hold a 14 per cent stake, followed by Chinese internet group Tencent with 13.2 per cent, according to company filings.

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Made.com valued at £775m in London IPO

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Shares in Made.com fell 8 per cent despite the company pricing them at the bottom of their range in its initial public offering on Wednesday, giving the online furniture retailer a market capitalisation of £775m.

The listing follows the recent debuts in London of online greeting card group Moonpig and vintners Virgin Wines, which have accelerated sales thanks to stay-at-home consumers buying online during the coronavirus pandemic. Both those groups’ shares remain well ahead of their IPO prices.

Deliveroo’s £7.5bn IPO was branded one of the worst In London’s history, however, after its shares — already priced at the bottom end of the range — fell as much as 30 per cent in initial dealings. They remain more than a third below their IPO price.

“It’s a bit disappointing,” said one banker not involved in the Made.com IPO, adding that the 200p a share pricing was “some way below the levels that had been talked about”.

Valuations of up to £1bn had been mooted in the run-up to the listing.

“It’s got a large addressable market and a lot of share to go for, but historically it has wrestled with achieving profitability and scale in the UK market and it has gone ahead and pushed into international markets despite that,” the banker added.

Made.com sold 50m new shares in the IPO, raising £100m, while existing investors including co-founder Ning Li and Brent Hoberman sold 46.9m shares. A further 14.5m shares could be made available as part of the overallotment option. If exercised, that would increase the number of shares to 111.5m and 29 per cent of the issued share capital.

The shares traded conditionally in London on Wednesday, while full dealings will begin on Monday.

The homewares group aims to quadruple annual sales to £1.2bn by the end of 2025. The company has said it plans to invest proceeds from the IPO in marketing and supply chain improvements aimed at reducing the time between customer orders being placed and goods being delivered.

“The IPO is an exciting milestone for Made,” said chief executive Philippe Chainieux. “A listing in London, where the business was founded, will enable us to accelerate our growth.”

Made.com generated £315m in sales last year. The group, founded by entrepreneurs Ning and Hoberman in 2010, sells to about 1.2m active customers in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands and plans to expand beyond Europe.

After admission, growth-focused investors Level Equity and Partech will be the largest investors in the group, holding 14 and 11 per cent respectively, followed by companies linked to Ning with 8.8 per cent.

Fund management groups Majedie, Axa and NFU Mutual will also be top-10 shareholders, while a vehicle controlled by Hoberman will own 5.5 per cent.

The float is the latest in an increasingly active IPO scene for so-called digitally native businesses.

Victoria Plumbing is due to float on London’s junior market early next week, with pricing details expected on Thursday, while shares in German online fashion retailer About You began trading in Frankfurt on Wednesday and Berlin-based online optician Mister Spex announced its intention to float on Monday.



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