Sep 6, 2019 - Economy & Business

Behind new buzz over WeWork's IPO

The WeWork sign outside of a community office

Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Getty Images

There is lots of WeWork IPO buzz after the WSJ reported that the company may go public at a valuation at less than half its most recent private mark of $47 billion.

Driving the news: It also revealed that CEO Adam Neumann recently met in Tokyo with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to discuss either a cornerstone IPO investment or a private capital infusion that would allow WeWork to delay its IPO until next year.

Yes, but don't bet on the delay. WeWork needs to go public in 2019 in order to receive a $6 billion credit facility, and multiple sources tell me that Neumann is willing to accept a major equity valuation slash.

    • Caveat: If Masa pulls up the Brink's truck — perhaps offering to supplant the proposed IPO proceeds and debt proceeds — then WeWork's calculus changes significantly. Particularly given that it's done early employee tenders already.

The big picture: On the valuation, it's important to remember that WeWork was valued at only $21 billion when it raised its Series G funding in mid-2017. That was the round led by SoftBank Vision Fund.

  • The bump to $47 billion came later from SoftBank Group (not from its Vision Fund), via a convoluted/downsized process in which the Japanese giant seemed to pay up for taking up so much of WeWork's time.
  • And, yes, there are some market sources who believe the $47 billion was, in at least a small part, to help boost fundraising for Vision Fund II.

What to watch: We still don't know when the IPO road-show kicks off. But, when it does, all eyes will be on Neumann. Those close to the process believe that there is lots of buy-side interest in the company, but more than a few outstanding questions about its leader. His performance in those hotel ballrooms could be worth billions.

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