Big deal: Airbnb takes series F booking from CIC

China Investment Corporation has been revealed as an investor in Airbnb’s $1bn series F round, providing approximately 10% of the capital.

Airbnb, a US-based short-term accommodation marketplace backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, made headlines last week when a regulatory filing revealed it had raised a $1bn series F round from 40 unnamed investors.

Then on Friday evening, Sky News reported that one of those 40 was China Investment Corporation (CIC), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which subscribed to roughly 10% – in other words, it supplied about $100m.

The series F round valued Airbnb at $31bn, according to CNBC. Previous reports in September 2016 named CapitalG, the growth capital arm of conglomerate Alphabet then called Google Capital, as a co-lead investor alongside growth equity firm Technology Crossover Ventures. At the time, Airbnb was targeting an $850m close and had secured an initial $555m.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb operates a platform that allows users to lease or rent properties short-term, ranging from a single guest room to cottages, flats and even castles.

The company, which takes a 3% fee per reservation, claims more than 3 million listings – including about 1,400 of the aforementioned castles – in more than 65,000 cities across some 191 countries.

Airbnb’s offering includes local tourism services, through which users can sign up to experiences such as workshops or guided walking tours provided by other suppliers.

CIC’s move is significant, if not entirely unexpected – the fund has been ramping up efforts to invest in US-based companies as well as make infrastructure investments in the country since November last year.

Qi Bin, who was appointed deputy general manager of CIC last August, announced in November that CIC was set to rebalance its mix of investments to involve public equity, alternative investments, including hedge funds, and boost its ability to make direct investments.

At the same time, Qi stated, CIC was aiming to move away from its focus on infrastructure investments. The foreign investments would be aimed at providing a boost to the domestic economy.

In 2015, CIC opened an office in New York, following the closure of its Toronto office earlier that month – at the time, the Canadian location was its only foreign office.

At home, CIC is busy supporting the government in reforming regulations that govern initial public offerings following the central government’s decision to halt flotations in 2015 and early 2016 to sit out market volatility.

There are, by some accounts, about 800 companies awaiting approval for an IPO, and while the sovereign wealth fund did not say as much, it would be reasonable for CIC to enter the US with a view of securing more exits.

Of course, a $1bn series F round pushes a flotation or acquisition for Airbnb further into the future, but the money should also mean the company will have some runway to fight off legal setbacks as jurisdictions such as New York curb users' ability to sub-let properties – a law that last month led to two landlords being found guilty of 17 violations and fined $1,000 for each.

The same is true for many other major tourism locations, such as Paris, where authorities have been known to raid properties following listings that contravene housing regulations limiting home rentals to a total of 120 days a year.

These troubles may also explain why Airbnb has reportedly hired consultancy McKinsey & Co to look into the long-term rental market, as our sister publication Global Corporate Venturing wrote on Friday citing reports in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Airbnb, which has now obtained $3.4bn in total funding, purportedly achieved profitability in the second quarter of 2016 and is on track for a positive full-year ebitda – earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation – this year.

Temasek previously helped push a series E round in 2015 to a $1.5bn close at a $24bn valuation.

The company’s existing shareholders include General Atlantic, Hillhouse Capital, Tiger Global Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GGV Capital, China Broadband Capital, Horizon Ventures, Wellington Management, Baillie Gifford, T Rowe Price and Fidelity Investment, which participated in the series E round alongside Temasek.

The consortium is rounded out by TPG, Dragoneer Investment Group, DST Global, Founders Fund, Firstmark Capital, Sequoia Capital, CrunchFund, Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst Partners, Y Combinator and SV Angel.

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