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Airbnb’s $2 Billion French Market Under Pressure From Lawmakers

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Airbnb Inc.’s listings in France, a major but troubled market for the U.S. home-sharing startup, generated more than $2 billion for hosts last year, a person familiar with the matter said.

France is Airbnb’s largest market outside of the U.S., offering villas in Provence and the Riviera to apartments on the Champs-Elysees.

Bookings using Airbnb’s platform hit $2 billion in 2018 and sales grew in 2019, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information hasn’t been publicly disclosed. Airbnb charges a range of fees -- up to 20% -- depending on the property. Rentals in France rose last year as more users headed to rural retreats, a spokesman for the company said, declining to comment further.

Airbnb is facing a deadline to send rental data to the French tax authorities this week as part of a law that requires marketplaces to share user revenue and other information to the state. Tax collectors will compare Airbnb’s disclosures with that of its hosts to look for tax avoidance.

It’s the latest measure in a contentious relationship with France, which has sought to squeeze more data and money out of Airbnb and other tech giants under President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

A tax on so-called digital giants is targeting large tech companies, including Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. It was enforced last year, but suspended last week as Macron sought to fend off U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to slap tariffs on French wine and cheese. Airbnb said it contributed between 5 million euros ($5.5 million) and 10 million euros to that tax plan before the freeze.

Read more about U.S. retaliation to the digital giants tax.

Another newly enacted law forces Airbnb to supply local governments with information about the type of housing being offered, the number of guests and its hosts names and addresses. Paris and Bordeaux have asked for data under the new regulations, which took effect in December, Airbnb said. The company also pays tourist tax, which cost them 58 million euros last year, double the amount from 2018.

”We are seeing a net loss of nearly 30,000 homes with the tourist furnished rental platforms,” said spokeswoman for the Paris city council. “Airbnb threatens the soul and identity of a number of neighborhoods. We cannot remain inert in the face of this situation. Every major city in the world is facing this problem.”

Still, the country’s popularity makes it an important part in Airbnb’s strategy as it gears up for a listing this year. Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Brian Chesky has promised to list the company, which has a private valuation above $30 billion, before the end of this year when some employee stock grants expire.

Read more about the company’s plans to list here.

More than a decade after it was founded, Airbnb has plenty of experience dealing with regulators concerned about what the home-sharing platform, which now has more than 7 million listings worldwide, will do to local housing stock. U.S. cities including San Francisco and New York have tried to force Airbnb to hand over more data so they can enforce short-term rental laws.

Entr’Hotes, a group of about 20 Paris super hosts have met with lawmakers to discuss their views as the government was preparing laws, and have called for more transparency.

“The Paris city wants to make hosts responsible for their failure to managing the housing market in the city. Airbnb must show them wrong, and only showing data will prove it,” said Christine, 63, who rents a room in her private home in Paris’s trendy 11th arrondissement.

“One thing they must show on the platform is the difference between us -- the home owners who welcome from time-to-time visitors, the DNA of Airbnb -- and the professional rentals, hotels and houses,” said Brigitte, another host who rents her 500-square-foot apartment on the South Bank of the Seine River.

--With assistance from Olivia Carville.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Amy Thomson

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