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Airbnb Q2 Earnings Preview: Increasing Travel Demand Makes Stock Attractive

When Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) releases its latest quarterly report later today, investors will be most interested in whether the reopening of the U.S. economy is boosting domestic travel and helping this alternative lodging platform cut its pandemic-era losses.

The platform's second-quarter earnings report is also significant as bookings in the ongoing summer season could provide some insight into the level of pent-up travel demand ahead of the winter holiday period. 

Early indications suggest that the San-Francisco-based Airbnb is in a good position to exceed analysts’ expectations. Airbnb received a rare double upgrade to a buy rating from Gordon Haskett last month. The firm sees improving trends, particularly in Europe, as a boon for the vacation-rental stock.

The San Francisco-based Airbnb should see sales surging 42% to $1.26 billion from the previous quarter, while losses per share shrink to $0.36 from $1.95, according to analysts consensus forecast. 

The latest earnings reports from other travel-related companies also show that after a year of lockdowns and border closures triggered by the COVID pandemic, the travel sector is starting to see the green shoots of recovery. 

Expedia Group (NASDAQ:EXPE) last week said its second-quarter sales more than tripled to $2.11 billion and gross bookings increased to $20.8 billion. Both topped analysts’ estimates.

Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG), the biggest online travel agency, also reported a better-than-expected surge in room night reservations, and expressed optimism that the pace of travel will continue to improve as more people are vaccinated and restrictions are loosened.

Bumpy Road To Recovery 

Despite these early signs of a rebound in travel activity, investors aren’t showing much excitement for Airbnb stock, which is down more than 30% from its February high. It closed on Wednesday at $148.18.

Airbnb Weekly Chart.
Airbnb Weekly Chart.

One possible explanation for this underperformance is the ongoing spread of the highly contagious Delta variant that's forcing many countries to re-impose lockdowns and travel restrictions. 

Expedia’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern offered a cautionary note for the near-term outlook of the travel industry last week by saying that the road to full travel recovery remains bumpy until more of the world is vaccinated.

These uncertainties, in our view, shouldn’t discourage investors from taking a position in Airbnb, which is looking cheap after this year’s pullback. The San Francisco-based company's relative resilience in a historically bad year for the travel industry is a result of a flexible business model that allowed ABNB to meet customers in the places they wanted to go. That meant city-dwellers fleeing to less crowded, suburban and rural locations and families and groups looking to vacation close to home.

These steps, and the company's cost cutting, make ABNB one of the best assets in the travel sector. KeyBanc analysts this month, while upgrading Airbnb to overweight, set a price target of $180 per share, nearly 22% higher than the current price.