Airbnb IPO could be the 'steal of the century,' Jim Cramer says

The coronavirus pandemic has carved out a lane for lodging company Airbnb and it makes the forthcoming IPO even more enticing, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Monday.

“I think it’ll be a steal,” the “Mad Money” host said.

The ongoing global health crisis devastated the travel and hotel industries, as countries put flight restrictions and lockdown orders in place to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Airbnb, which connects travelers with property rentals, was not spared as conditions forced the company into cost-cutting mode where it laid off about 25% of its workforce and reduced marketing spending. Wall Street speculated whether Airbnb would shelve its plans to go public this year.

With hotels hobbled, Cramer said the industry will find it much harder to continue boxing Airbnb out the market.

“Thanks to Covid, AirBnB is now the safest way to travel, which is why this IPO might end up being the steal of the century. It pretty much has the market to itself,” he said. “The once-mighty hotel and restaurant industries — and their unions — no longer have the clout to keep Airbnb down.”

Airbnb rentals in rural areas, however, recovered as people sought vacation and refuge from virus-stricken communities. The company, though, had an $18 billion valuation as of April, almost half what it was worth in 2017.

While executives once toyed with a potential direct listing, Airbnb revealed last week that it filed paperwork for an initial public offering. It remains unclear how many shares it plans to offer.

“This turns out to be another one of those forever changed businesses that’s actually benefitting from Covid-19,” Cramer said. “Before the virus, staying in someone else’s house seemed maybe a little more risky than staying at a hotel. Now, the hotels seem outright dangerous, and even the most pampered rich people have figured out how to clean up after themselves.”

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