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Could SoftBank’s reduced investment push WeWork into going public?

Japanese firm SoftBank Group recently cut its $16 billion investment into coworking operator WeWork down to $2 billion, giving it a $47 billion valuation. In total, SoftBank has funneled $6 billion into WeWork, who plans on using $5 billion as growth capital and the last $1 billion to buy out shares from investors and employees.

Masayoshi Son, the chairman and CEO of Softbank, says that they trust WeWork’s ability to further grow and “aggressively pursue the enormous market opportunity ahead of them.”

Despite this, experts and competitors believe that the reduced investment will cause WeWork executives to worry and push them into going public.

Edward Shenderovich, the chairman and co-founder of flexible workspace provider Knotel, said that WeWork’s big spending may conflict with their financials.

In October 2018, it was revealed that SoftBank’s Vision Fund would take a majority stake in the coworking operator by investing $16 billion — $10 billion to buy out existing shareholders and $6 billion for new capital. Then, two of the company’s funding investors out of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi pushed the pause button to express concern about WeWork’s annual losses.

Unicorn companies, private companies valued over $1 billion, typically stave off going public for as long as possible to avoid scrutiny.

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Any investment from SoftBank would normally be seen as a successful avoidance of going public, but according to Alex Snyder, a senior analyst at CenterSquare, WeWork is too big to continue down its path privately.

“There just aren’t that many people that can write that check,” Snyder said. “I’d be surprised if going public wasn’t at least somewhere in their minds as a potential capital source.”

SoftBank previously invested $8 billion into WeWork through the Vision Fund, but the recent investment will come from SoftBank itself.

WeWork recently announced its rebranding as The We Company that will consist of three sectors: its main office with WeWork, a co-living community WeLive, and an education sector with WeGrow.

WeWork has had rapid growth and is now the largest office tenant in Manhattan, signing huge deal including 236,000 square feet of space in CIM Group’s building.

Snyder believes that WeWork could stop expansion and start turning a profit, but others believe that the company’s losses are not as bad as they seem. With $2 billion investments, they still remain topdog in the coworking space sector.

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