Bloomberg reported that Airbnb considered beginning the IPO process as early as March. Will uncertainty on Wall Street hold back the short-term rental giant from going public?

It’s been a roller coaster couple of weeks for global markets as the spread of novel coronavirus continues to make its way to new countries, creating a global public health crisis. The fear and uncertainty surrounding the disease wiped out significant value from real estate shares in the past week — with a historic rebound Monday — but could the ups and downs, as well as travel fears be holding back Airbnb from its plans to go public?

The short-term rental giant initially had plans to start the process of going public — which includes filing an S-1 document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to signal an initial public offering — in March or April, according to a Bloomberg report, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Some of those same sources, according to Bloomberg, said that the march towards an initial public offering could get pushed back. Airbnb, for its part, directed Bloomberg to a prior statement that said it plans to become a public company in 2020. The company has, however, initiated protocol to refund travelers, which could impact its bottom line and lead to a less-than-best-foot-forward S-1 filing.

S-1 filings are usually the first look that the public gets at the financial health and profitability of any given company and due to WeWork’s failed IPO, there’s now a strong precedent for a tech unicorn to flounder after releasing its financials and eventually canceling IPO plans.

Airbnb believes that the disruption to the travel industry will only be temporary, despite the uncertainty.

“The coronavirus outbreak is causing travel restrictions and other disruptions that have a direct impact on the travel and tourism sector and beyond,” the company said in a statement. “Although nobody can know the extent of the impact that the coronavirus outbreak may have, we believe that history shows that when global disruptions happen, the travel industry has bounced back in the long run.”

“Most importantly, our focus right now is on how we can best support our stakeholders as they are impacted by this global health challenge, including hosts, guests, employees and the communities in which we operate.”

In addition to the public market uncertainty, travelers around the world are canceling plans, for fear of contracting the disease.

“Airbnb is closely monitoring official news and guidance about the novel coronavirus outbreak in order to support our community of hosts, guests and employees in China and around the world — we are prioritizing their safety and well being,” the company said in a statement posted to its website.

“As governments and organizations work to contain and mitigate the outbreak, travel and other restrictions have been implemented in several places around the world,” the statement continued. “To help accommodate these disruptions, we have activated our ‘extenuating circumstances policy’ to offer impacted hosts and guests the option of canceling eligible reservations without charge.”

Airbnb is continuing to operate in the Wuhan province of China, although due to its extenuating circumstances policy, travelers that planned to head there would have been eligible to get a refund. As of Tuesday, there are still a number of short-term rentals available on the website in the area.

Email Patrick Kearns

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