Airbnb’s founders were moments away from merging their China business with local competitor Tujia in January 2017. Executives and investors spent hours hashing out a deal. Preliminary term sheets were drawn up. Then in the final hour of negotiations, Airbnb pulled out.
Sixteen months later, the decision still rankles investors and has further emboldened Chinese rivals, according to people close to both companies.
Tujia remains keen to cut a deal - although both sides deny formal talks - and says it's simply waiting for Airbnb executives to accept reality. “We would love to issue shares in Tujia in exchange for Airbnb’s China operations,” says Tujia Chief Financial Officer Warren Wang, “...If Airbnb needs more time to understand that they or any other foreign tech companies just can’t do that well in China without a local partner...”
Airbnb says it’s making strides in China, more than doubling the number of Chinese guests staying at Airbnb properties and boosting listings in China by 125% to 200,000 from a year before. The company declined to disclose sales growth but pledged to continue making aggressive investments in China.
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