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SoftBank urges WeWork to shelve IPO over valuation concerns

Published: September 10, 2019 16:25:50


SoftBank Group, a leading shareholder in the holding company of US office-sharing startup WeWork, has urged it to shelve a planned IPO on concerns over the valuation, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

A SoftBank spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, which cited sources familiar with the matter, reports Reuters.

Investor scepticism has already forced money-losing The We Company to consider slashing its IPO valuation to a little more than $20 billion, sources told the news agency last week. That followed weak initial trading at other startups including SoftBank-backed Uber Technologies Inc.

While SoftBank and its $100 billion Vision Fund emphasize their long-term investing credentials, founder and CEO Masayoshi Son has set out an ambitious IPO pipeline for tech investments spanning ride-hailing, fintech and health startups.

Putting The We Company’s offering on hold would disrupt that schedule at a time when SoftBank is seeking funds from investors for a second Vision Fund.

SoftBank made a follow-up investment in We Company, one of its biggest tech bets, at a $47 billion valuation earlier this year - a number widely treated with scepticism by analysts.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Chris Lane said that if The We Company halts the IPO, SoftBank could come up with an alternative funding plan for the startup, which he estimates needs $9 billion in funding to become cash-flow positive.

SoftBank “have got an important voice, but more importantly they have money ... (The We Company) will have to listen to them,” said Lane, who values the office space-sharing firm at $23 billion.

Tech conglomerate SoftBank has burned through much of the $100 billion raised by its first Vision Fund in just two years, recording big paper gains on internal revaluations of its tech investments.

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