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Airbnb valuation surges past $100 billion in biggest U.S. IPO of 2020

(Reuters) -Shares of Airbnb Inc soared in their stock market debut on Thursday, valuing the home rental firm at $101.6 billion in the biggest U.S. flotation of 2020 and capping a bumper year that saw investors flock to tech darlings.

Shares opened at $146 on the Nasdaq, far above the initial public offering (IPO) price of $68 apiece that raised $3.5 billion for the company. The stock hit a high of $165, rising 142.6% after the debut.

The IPO highlights a stunning recovery in Airbnb’s fortunes after the firm’s business was heavily damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.

Founded in 2008 as a website to take bookings for rooms during conferences, Airbnb was valued at just $18 billion in a private fundraising round in April and $31 billion in its last pre-COVID-19 private fundraising in 2017.

The surge at opening adds billions to what was already a blockbuster payday for founders Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joseph Gebbia and investors including Sequoia Capital and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

This year has seen a string of stellar debuts by technology startups including Wednesday’s launch of DoorDash Inc, which valued the food delivery company at more than four times the figure from a private fundraising round six months ago.

At $146, Airbnb had a market capitalization of about $87.2 billion, compared with Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG)’ $86.3 billion and Marriot International (NASDAQ:MAR)’s $42.3 billion.

Airbnb struggled in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic as travel came to a grinding halt. It had to lay off a quarter of its workforce and seek $2 billion in emergency funding from investors, including Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners.

But as lockdowns eased, more travelers opted to book homes instead of hotels, helping Airbnb post a surprise profit for the third quarter. The San Francisco-based firm also gained from increased interest in renting homes away from major cities.

Airbnb’s listing is one of the most anticipated U.S. IPOs of 2020, which has already been a bumper year for flotations. Record label Warner Music Group, data analytics firm Palantir Technologies and data warehouse company Snowflake Inc have all gone public in the past few months.

Including securities such as options and restricted stock units, its fully diluted valuation came to $101.6 billion.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) are the lead underwriters for the IPO.

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