WeWork is considering slashing the valuation it will seek in IPO

Shared office company is looking to a value of $20bn, less than half its valuation during a private fundraising round in January

The We Company’s deliberations illustrate how growing investor scepticism over the US office space sharing startup’s lack of a roadmap to profitability

The We Company’s deliberations illustrate how growing investor scepticism over the US office space sharing startup’s lack of a roadmap to profitability

 

WeWork owner The We Company is considering slashing the valuation it will seek in an initial public offering (IPO) to a little over $20 billion (€18 billion), less than half the $47 billion valuation it achieved in a private fundraising round in January, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The We Company’s deliberations illustrate how growing investor scepticism over the US office space sharing startup’s lack of a roadmap to profitability, and its co-founder Adam Neumann’s firm grip on its governance, are weighing on its IPO prospects.

A dramatic drop in the We Company’s valuation could also prove to be a seminal moment for the IPO expectations of Silicon Valley unicorns, or startups with a valuation over $1 billion. Other high-profile stock market listings this year, such as those of ride-hailing companies Uber Technologies and Lyft, have fared poorly in subsequent trading, amid investor skepticism over their lack of a concrete plan to profitability.

In May, Uber completed its IPO at a valuation of $82.4 billion, well below the $120 billion bankers had told the company it could be worth in 2018. It still fared better than the We Company stands to, given that Uber’s IPO valuation was higher than its most recent valuation of $76 billion in the private fundraising market.

The We Company has not yet launched its IPO road show to formally solicit feedback from investors. It may begin this process as early as Monday, according to one person familiar with the matter. The sources cautioned that no decision on the valuation has been taken and asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. The We Company declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the We Company was considering an IPO valuation of around $20 billion. The We Company rents out workspace to clients under short-term contracts and pays rent for the properties under long-term leases.

The New York-based company lost more than $900 million in the first half of 2019, up 25 per cent from a year earlier, even as its revenue doubled to $1.54 billion, as it burned through cash to expand. The mounting losses and concerns over how its business model would survive an economic downturn have raised skepticism from analysts and investors about the IPO.

Complicating matters further, the company is looking to go public against a turbulent market backdrop, with the US-China trade war making for the worst August for US stocks in four years. “The market has changed very much since Uber and Lyft went public. What investors want now is an appropriate discount to price in the risk and have greater comfort that it won’t fall below the IPO price,” said Barry Oxford, a real estate analyst at D.A. Davidson & Company.

WeWork, which was rebranded We Company earlier this year, is backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, which has invested or committed to invest $10.65 billion since 2017. We Company Chief Executive Neumann recently met with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to discuss SoftBank making an anchor investment in the IPO to support demand, or making a further private investment in the We Company in order to postpone the IPO, according to the Wall Street Journal.

SoftBank and its affiliates own around 29 per cent of the company’s shares compared to a 22 per cent stake owned by Neumann, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter. - Reuters