Latest round of Airbnb funding underscores growing Silicon Valley, China relationship

Airbnb is closing in on $1.5-billion of fundraising that would boost its valuation to $24 billion, on par with the elite global hotel companies, including Marriott International (a $21-billion market cap) and Hilton Worldwide (a $27.6-billion market cap).

Its latest round of funding also underpins the home-sharing company's strength outside the U.S., particularly with China. The financing is set to be led by U.S. private equity firm General Atlantic, but abetted by Beijing-based Hillhouse Capital (also leading an investment in Uber) and investment firm Tiger Global.

AS FT reports, if Airbnb’s funding round is completed, it would match Facebook as the biggest equity investment round for a private technology company.

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The transaction also illustrates "growing capital flows between Silicon Valley and China," as well as the continued growth in demand in Asia that has made the region a focus of investment for U.S. companies.

Airbnb has reportedly become popular with Chinese tour groups when they go abroad. Airbnb is also seeing growth in countries such as South Korea and Singapore, as it continues to invest more globally.

Paris Ire
Meanwhile, in France, Airbnb is facing opposition. Housing officials in Paris are cracking down on tourist rentals threatening fines of as much as €25,000. According to The Wall Street Journal, Airbnb generates more than half its revenue in Europe. However, similar to what Airbnb is facing in the U.S., from groups such as the AH&LA, it is facing opposition from hotel groups and local authorities.

Paris is Airbnb's largest source of listings with a reported 40,000.

In response, Airbnb has "wooed government officials," with the promise to pay tourism taxes.

As WSJ further reports, while cities, including Berlin and Barcelona, have also cracked down on Airbnb, others, such as London and Amsterdam, have passed laws accepting of Airbnb.

"This is how we partner with cities," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky reportdly told French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently during a meeting. "We’re not here to bend the rules."

Others, however, are less convinced. "You can’t call this a sharing economy anymore," Laurent Duc, president of the French Hotel Federation, told The Journal. "This is an underground shadow economy."

Cuba Ahoy
If Europe is giving Airbnb pushback, seems it's not worried about Cuba. As The AP reports, Airbnb is exploring a significant expansion of its operations in Cuba after it "became the first major U.S. business to enter the island in decades."

CTO Nathan Blecharczyk told The AP that Airbnb had requested a special license allowing people from outside the U.S. to reserve stays at private homes inside Cuba.

Airbnb currently books lodging only for U.S. residents going to Cuba for 12 special purposes, including educational travel, religious outreach and appearing in athletic and artistic events.

"We are applying for a special license to accommodate non-Americans who want to travel to Cuba for approved reasons. That's something that's in process," Blecharcyzk told The AP. "Airbnb has the majority of its users outside of the U.S. ... I think there is huge potential to market to that audience."

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