We are witnessing the WePlosion.
Office-rental company WeWork needs to raise cash by “no later than the end of November,” the Financial Times reported (paywall), citing two people briefed on fundraising efforts. That’s much faster than previous estimates (paywall), which gave WeWork another six months or so at current spending rates.
To quickly recap: WeWork in the past two weeks (!) pushed out CEO Adam Neumann, yanked its IPO, put Neumann’s jet up for sale, put its side businesses up for sale, and plans to lay off hundreds to thousands of workers. WeWork’s new co-CEOs, Sebastian Gunningham and Artie Minson, are scouring the business for possible savings and have told staff to expect growth to slow.
Cash has always been an urgent need for WeWork, which posts losses that resemble Pride Rock. The company lost $933 million in 2017 and $1.9 billion in 2018. In the first half of this year, We raised $3.4 billion in cash and spent it mostly on investments that included leasehold improvements (new paint job, nicer lighting), security deposits with landlords, and its purchase of the flagship Lord & Taylor building. WeWork reported a loss of $905 million for the first half, and had $2.5 billion in cash as of June 30.
You get the idea. Late last year, WeWork and Softbank were in talks to have Softbank pump $15 billion to $20 billion into WeWork, taking a majority stake in the business. But Softbank scrapped that plan in January after pushback from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co., the two main backers of its $100 billion Vision Fund.
After that deal fell through, WeWork turned to the public markets. The company had planned to raise $3 billion to $4 billion in an IPO, plus gain access to $6 billion in credit tied to its completion of a successful offering. Pulling its listing meant taking all of that financing off the table.
WeWork is now reportedly in talks to complete a debt financing package that would be significantly more expensive than previous loans the company has received. (WeWork’s existing bonds were recently downgraded to a CCC+ credit rating by Fitch, meaning they have a high risk of default). The talks are being led by JPMorgan Chase, which pitched WeWork a potential valuation of $46 billion to $63 billion to win its IPO business and now needs to save face. Meanwhile SoftBank, once WeWork’s biggest cheerleader, is “embarrassed and flustered” by the whole debacle.
The problem, in other words, isn’t just that WeWork needs cash, but that it’s running out of places to get it.