Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) continues to climb, thanks to the general “melt-up” of the stock market. Starting 2021 trading for around $139 per share, Airbnb stock is at $170 per share.
But, while investors remain enthusiastic about this company, chasing its recent rally may not be the best move. Why? First, valuation. Shares now trade at a forward price-sales ratio of around 26x (based on an estimated $4.47 billion in 2021 revenue).
Second, while the travel economy has improved since the height of lockdowns, it’s not out of the woods yet. Investors today may be pricing in a rapid 2021 recovery that may not arrive on schedule.
Third, there are some minor concerns that could have an impact on Airbnb stock going forward. Besides upcoming insider selling in the spring, recent events could increase scrutiny of big tech during the upcoming Biden years.
So, with many concerns on the table, what’s the play? Given investors remain in love with popular growth stocks, it’s too risky to go short. But now’s not the best entry point for a long-term position. Those interested in this travel economy “disruptor” should hold off buying until prices get back down to more reasonable levels.
A Frothy Valuation for ABNB
With “growth at any price” remaining the stock market’s mantra, valuation concerns have taken a backseat for the past year. Airbnb stock could still climb in the near term, in spite of their frothy forward multiple. But, for those looking to hold this stock for the long-haul, it’s definitely a concern.
How so? Investors may be willing to pay a large growth premium for this “disruptor,” given its high expected growth. Per analyst estimates, sales are expected to climb to over $21 billion per year by 2029.
But, while its future remains bright, those buying ABNB stock today shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. While the company could continue to crush it many years out, for now it must contend with Covid-19, which despite vaccine optimism continues to have an impact on the travel economy.
As I wrote late last month, it may not be until 2022 that revenues bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. For now, this may not be an issue, as hope for a vaccine-fueled recovery remains the consensus. Yet, if results in the coming quarters signal a slower-than-expected rebound, we could a correction in ABNB stock.
Besides these two major concerns, there are a couple of secondary ones to keep in mind as well. The jury’s still out that these back-burner issues will affect this stock. But, as shares make new highs, it may be wise to keep both in mind before diving in.
Secondary Concerns With Airbnb Stock
Per Barron’s, insiders at Airbnb will be free to sell restricted shares on the open market after the company releases results for the quarter ending March 31. This could mean downward pressure on the stock a few months from now.
Besides this risk (already on the table since it went public), there’s now a new potential concern for Airbnb. That’s the possible repeal of Section 230. Section 230 is a provision that makes online platforms not liable for content its users post online. This legal protection is mainly pertinent to social networks like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR).
But, in a recent research note, Gordon Haskett’s Robert Mollins pointed this out as an overlooked risk with ABNB stock. Without Section 230, the company could be found liable for a variety of misdeeds committed on the platform. In the aftermath of recent events, big changes to this provision could be in the cards.
That may explain some of big tech’s recent actions, including Airbnb’s suspension of Washington, D.C. rentals through the presidential inauguration. But, despite big tech’s ties to the incoming administration, overall scrutiny could increase, not decrease, over the next few years.
Continue to Steer Clear
I get why investors are excited about jumping into Airbnb, even as it’s still contending with Covid-19 headwinds. With substantial top line growth expected between now and 2029, today’s frothy valuation doesn’t look that overdone.
That being said, there’s still a lot that send shares lower in the coming months. Airbnb could stumble, if it becomes apparent its Covid-19 recovery takes longer than expected. Markets could correct, sending high-flying growth stocks back to earth. Secondary issues like the upcoming insider lockup expiration, and possible regulatory changes, could also affect future prices.
Bottom line: with more on the table to sink it rather than to send it higher, continue to stay on the sidelines with Airbnb stock.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not (either directly or indirectly) hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
Thomas Niel, a contributor to InvestorPlace, has written single stock analysis since 2016.