Japan's SoftBank in Talks to Buy WeWork for Up to $20 Billion

If the deal goes through, this will be one of the biggest and most important in the field of start-ups over the past decade

File photo: WeWork's London office space.
Bloomberg

Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is engaged in intensive talks to take control of WeWork for up to $20 billion, U.S. technology news sites reported Wednesday.

If the deal goes through, this will be one of the biggest and most important in the field of start-ups over the past decade.

SoftBank’s share, which trades on the Tokyo stock exchange, lost more than 5% on Wednesday.

WeWork, which offers shared work spaces, was founded by Israeli Adam Neumann. Last year, it received a $4.4 billion investment from the Vision fund, which was founded by SoftBank CEO and Chairman Masayoshi Son.

In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that WeWork and SoftBank were in talks over another investment that would value WeWork at $40 billion.

The $93 billion Vision fund turned Son into the world’s largest technology investor. More than half of its funds came from an investment fund run by the Saudi government, led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

If the fund does indeed invest $15-20 billion in WeWork, it would be a large gamble, both because WeWork has been losing money and because many sector sources say the company is overvalued.

WeWork was founded eight years ago, and in that time it has become a behemoth with shared office space in more than 70 cities around the globe. Some 250,000 people rent offices and workspaces from WeWork. The company has more office space in Manhattan than any other company, according to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

From the start, WeWork presented itself as a high-tech company, not a real estate company, with a focus on connecting people and creating communities.

In July, the Financial Times published a report stating that WeWork should actually be valued at $3 billion, and not $20 billion.

WeWork had revenues last year of $886 million, but its losses also expanded, from nearly $100 million in the first quarter of 2017, before accounting for taxes, to more than $200 million as of the fourth quarter.