WeWork lifts veil on finances with IPO filing

INTERNATIONAL – WeWork owner The We Company on Wednesday filed with regulators for an initial public offering and published detailed financial statements for the first time that showed it lost almost $700 million in the first half of 2019 while doubling revenue.

The preliminary filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission takes it a step closer to a planned listing next month and comes at a time when stock markets are in turmoil due to a prolonged trade war between the United States and China.

The company, which offers shared office space, did not give any detail on the size of the offering or the exchange where the would list its shares.

The filing provides the most comprehensive financial picture yet of the company co-founded by its chief executive officer, Adam Neumann, in 2010. The company previously reported it lost nearly $2 billion in 2018, as it invests heavily to grow its business.

Among the disclosures in the filing, WeWork reported a net loss attributable to the company of $689.7 million in the six months ended June 30, compared with a loss of $628.1 million a year earlier.

In the same period, revenue more than doubled to $1.54 billion.

JP Morgan Securities and Goldman Sachs are among a nine-member underwriting team for the IPO.

If it goes ahead with the IPO, WeWork would be the biggest company by value to list on the US stock market this year after ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc.

An IPO would come at a time when an escalating trade war between the United States and China has made investors more risk-averse to new companies listing.

WeWork was valued in January at $47 billion in a private fundraising round, according to data provider PitchBook.

With its steep losses, WeWork faces some of the same headwinds. WeWork’s business model is based on short-term revenue agreements and long-term loan liabilities, and has been subject to some skepticism.

The company warned it has a history of losses and may never be able to turn a profit at a company level for the foreseeable future.

WeWork has shaken up office leasing by offering start-ups and entrepreneurs short-term contracts in lieu of traditional long-term leases. It also generates greater revenue per square foot than landlords by squeezing more people into a space.

The company said it operates 528 locations in 111 cities across 29 countries.

Flexible office providers have dominated leasing in major gateway cities, most notably London, New York and San Francisco, a sign of growing demand by companies and not just the startups and entrepreneurs that put coworking on the map.

While WeWork is the flag bearer, several operating models exist. The industry, which JLL estimates will account for 30 percent of leasing in a decade, is likely to end up like hotels with various services and customer niches. 

WeWork, whose current investors include Japan’s SoftBank Corp, did not disclose how much it is looking to raise in the IPO and what valuation it will aim for.

This will come in an amended IPO filing, which would precede a 10-day IPO roadshow to meet with potential investors.

The company will ultimately look to raise several billion dollars in the IPO following a substantial debt offering, Reuters has reported.


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