WeWork in talks to go public via SPAC

Co-working giant had a flameout en route to an IPO in 2019

WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani (WeWork; iStock)
WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani (WeWork; iStock)

Now We’ve seen everything.

WeWork is in talks to combine with a special-purpose acquisition company to go public, according to the Wall Street Journal. The co-working giant attempted an initial public offering in late 2019 but had a spectacular flameout during the IPO process, after scrutiny of its financials and governance.

WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani and the company’s board have been in discussions with a SPAC affiliated with BOW Capital Management and at least one more SPAC, the Journal reported.

WeWork may also consider an additional private investment round. If it goes that route, the company will remain private.

“Our significant progress combined with the increased market demand for flexible space shows positive signs for our business,” a spokesperson for the firm told the publication. “We will continue to explore opportunities that help us move closer towards our goals.”

A SPAC deal could value WeWork at $10 billion, according to the Journal. It’s a far cry from WeWork’s $47 billion valuation in 2019, before its bungled IPO and the ouster of co-founder Adam Neumann drove that figure down to $4.9 billion.

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To stave off insolvency, SoftBank offered a $9.5 billion bailout and tapped real estate veteran Sandeep Mathrani as CEO to right the ship. Under his leadership, WeWork has shed one-third of its workforce, yielding $1 billion in annual savings. It is also closing underperforming locations.

But in November 2020, the company said it burned through $1.7 billion since the beginning of the year, and that revenue dropped 8 percent in the third quarter.

Though the pandemic dealt the office sector a huge blow, some expect flexible-office firms to play a role in return-to-work plans, which could benefit WeWork.

In recent months, Mathrani has hinted publicly that WeWork could take another stab at an IPO. He said in October the company was on track to be profitable in 2021 and would then consider a public offering. “I’m a big believer in one step at a time so let’s hit profitable growth first,” he told Bloomberg News.

Over the past year, SPAC activity has exploded thanks to well-known sponsors like Chamath Palihapitiya, Bill Ackman and even SoftBank. So far this year, 83 SPACs have gone public, raising $23.2 billion. In 2020, 248 SPACs went public, raising $83 billion.

More than a dozen SPACs are hunting for proptech deals. A Tishman Speyer-backed SPAC said this week that it would take smart-lock maker Latch public in a $1.56 billion deal. Palihapitiya’s Social Capital merged with Opendoor, which began trading last year. And a Cantor Fitzgerald-backed SPAC is planning to acquire View, a SoftBank-backed smart glass maker. [WSJ]  — E.B. Solomont