WeWork still plans to kick off its troubled public offering by the end of this year, the company said this week.
The We Company, the parent of coworking rental firm WeWork, postponed its IPO after dramatically slashing its valuation amid investor skepticism around the company's prospects. Having been valued at $47 billion at the beginning of 2019, The We Company could seek a valuation of just $10 billion to $12 billion, Reuters reported on Sept. 13.
"The We Company 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 on Monday.
The We Company had planned to kick off an IPO roadshow this week, but delayed that step following a chilly investor response to its S-1 filing, doubts about its capital-intensive business model, and concerns about its governance structure. We Company CEO, Adam Neumann, also sparked criticism for cashing out $700 million worth of shares just months before its planned IPO; he has also been accused of conflicts of interest for previously leasing properties he personally owns to WeWork.
"When IPOs get delayed like this one has, because the market has told WeWork 'we don't like this deal', it puts them in a very bad spot," said John Mullins, associate professor of management practice in entrepreneurship at London Business School.
Citing a source, Yahoo! Finance reported on Tuesday afternoon that WeWork management assured its employees that it will complete the IPO by the end of this year in a company meeting described as "terse." It's unlikely that WeWork will be able to fundamentally change its business model -- which sells short-term office leases primarily to individuals and start-up companies -- before the end of this year, the company may come under pressure to reform aspects of its structure that investors find most unpalatable: notably, Neumann's outsized voting right in the firm, which grant him 20 votes per share.
"[Neumann] can choose to change that if he wishes, and his investors, namely Softbank, may pressure him to do that," Mullins added. Softbank owns a 29% stake in The We Company and is the largest outside shareholder.
The We Company's management may make good on its pledge to hold its public offering by the end of this year, but doing so at a dramatic discount may upset both employees and large investors such as Softbank. Or The We Company could shelve the IPO for even longer -- and it isn't clear what that would mean for the wounded unicorn.
"I don't think the chances are any better than 50/50, and they may be considerably worse than that," Mullins said of the possibility of a WeWork IPO this year.