WeWork is considering a bailout that will hand control of the co-working giant to SoftBank Group, according to a person familiar with the matter, one of two main options to rescue the once high-flying start-up.
The Japanese investment powerhouse controlled by billionaire Masayoshi Son is convinced it can turn around the cash-strapped American company with the right financial controls in place, the person said, asking not to be identified talking about internal deliberations. WeWork’s board and backers however are also weighing another option: JPMorgan Chase & Co is leading discussions about a US$5-billion debt package.
Either rescue package would ease a cash crunch that could leave the office-sharing company short of funds as soon as next month. The office-sharing start-up had been headed toward one of the year’s most hotly anticipated IPOs before prospective investors baulked at certain financial metrics and flawed corporate governance, turning the American giant into a cautionary tale of private market exuberance and costing the company’s top executive his job. The fast-growing, money-losing start-up had been counting on a stock listing — and a $6-billion loan contingent on a successful IPO — to meet its cash needs.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that SoftBank may be discussing a deal to gain control of WeWork. Representatives for the Japanese company weren’t immediately available for comment Monday, a national holiday.
SoftBank is already WeWork’s biggest shareholder but the proposed deal would shore up its control of the start-up, the person said, declining to elaborate on when a decision on the competing offers might be reached. The Japanese company is in advanced talks to acquire more shares at a significantly lower valuation than the $47-billion WeWork sported in January, two people familiar with those discussions said last week. The New York Times has reported that members of the board would meet on Monday to decide on which bailout to select.
“WeWork has retained a major Wall Street financial institution to arrange a financing,” a spokesperson for the US company said in a statement on Sunday. “Approximately 60 financing sources have signed confidentiality agreements and are meeting with the company’s management and its bankers over the course of this past week and this coming week.” — Reported by Gillian Tan, Michelle F Davis and Davide Scigliuzzo, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP