WeWork postpones its long-awaited IPO
WeWork pushed back its much-awaited initial public offering as the company seeks more time to allay investor doubts over its governance, slashed valuation and business prospects.
The offering is likely to be postponed until at least October, people familiar with the matter said Monday. The office-rental unicorn had planned to begin making its pitch to investors in a roadshow as soon as this week.
“The We Co. is looking forward to our upcoming IPO, which we expect to be completed by the end of the year,” the company said in a statement Monday evening. On Tuesday morning, co-founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, as well as Chief Financial Officer Artie Minson, addressed employees in a roughly half-hour webcast. Minson said the company delayed the offering to make sure it was done “1,000% right,” and Neumann reiterated the plan to go public in 2019, according to a person who heard the remarks.
The IPO was expected to be the next step in WeWork’s rapid growth and mark a victory for Japanese telecom giant SoftBank Group Corp.’s plan to pour billions of dollars into startups around the world. Instead, it turned into a dramatic struggle between WeWork Chief Executive Neumann, bankers and SoftBank over whether to plow ahead despite a plunging valuation or pull the deal.
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The delay will give advisors more time to drum up interest and may enable the company to show investors another quarter’s worth of results. Still, the value of WeWork’s bonds sank the most on record Tuesday on concerns that the cash-burning company will miss out not only on the more than $3 billion it planned to raise in the offering, but also on a $6-billion credit facility tied to a successful IPO. WeWork must carry out the offering by Dec. 31 to get the loan.
SoftBank had pressed WeWork to delay the stock offering amid doubts about the business, people familiar with the matter said previously. In January, SoftBank made its last investment in WeWork — officially renamed We Co. — at a valuation of $47 billion. The company was more recently expected to be valued at only about $15 billion in a listing and perhaps even less, people familiar with the matter have said.
The company’s $669 million of bonds due in 2025 dropped as much as 7.3 cents on the dollar to 95.5 cents Tuesday, according to the Trace bond-price reporting system. That’s the biggest decline since the notes were issued in April 2018.
The biggest investors in SoftBank’s $100-billion Vision Fund are now reconsidering how much to commit to its next investment vehicle after the oversized bet on WeWork soured. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which contributed $45 billion to the gargantuan fund, is only planning to reinvest profits from that vehicle into its successor, according to people familiar with the talks.
Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co., which invested $15 billion in the Vision Fund, is considering paring its future commitment to less than $10 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified disclosing internal deliberations.
The delay also adds another sour note to a medley of high-profile but frequently disappointing IPOs this year. The offering was expected to be the biggest after Uber Technologies Inc.’s $8.1-billion listing, and ahead of the $2.3-billion offering by Uber’s ride-hailing rival Lyft Inc. Both of those stocks are down more than 20%, and software company Slack Technologies Inc. has fallen more than 30% from where it closed its first day of trading in June.
WeWork has become an extreme example of the excesses afforded to technology entrepreneurs in the era of unicorns — startups valued at $1 billion or more. Neumann was able to raise billions of dollars at astronomical valuations and spend freely while retaining effective control over operations through special classes of stock.
In an effort to keep its IPO on track, WeWork took steps last week to limit Neumann’s control of the company after an IPO, as well as other measures to improve its corporate governance.
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