Start-up WeWork postpones IPO amid valuation concerns
The American real estate company has had to withdraw its IPO in an embarrassing U-turn
WeWork, the US office-sharing company, is postponing its stock market flotation after struggling to raise interest from investors. Its parent company, the We Company, was preparing to launch an investor roadshow this week to promote interest in the IPO, hoping to price and list its shares next week. However, the company announced on September 16 that it had decided to put the IPO on hold.
The decision comes amid ongoing concerns from investors. As well as losing $1.9bn last year, the company has been criticised for a number of corporate governance issues, including a lack of investor protection and the fact that there are no women on its board.
Some have called WeWork the most overvalued start-up in history, claiming it is an unprofitable real estate company marketing itself as an innovative tech firm
But perhaps investors’ biggest grievance has been with co-founder Adam Neumann, on account of his excessive influence within the company. Neumann has come under fire for putting his personal financial interests before those of the company. In July, he was criticised for cashing out over $700m in shares. The postponing of the IPO suggests that the corporate governance changes the company revealed on September 13 – which slightly lessened Neumann’s control over the company – were deemed insufficient to win over investors.
In July, WeWork was one of the US’ most valuable start-ups, valued at $47bn. Last week, however, Reuters reported that the company was considering a valuation of between $10bn and $12bn – even less than the $12.8bn it raised in equity when it was founded in 2010.
For WeWork’s critics, even $12bn would be an excessive share price. Some have called WeWork the most overvalued start-up in history, claiming it is an unprofitable real estate company marketing itself as an innovative tech firm. Neumann has been at the centre of this hype machine; he has claimed the company could solve the refugee crisis and that its main mission is “to elevate the world’s consciousness”.
WeWork now joins a number of high-profile private companies to receive a lukewarm response from investors in public markets, among them Uber and Lyft. The company expects to complete its offering by the end of the year, although next time it may need to set the bar lower than $47bn.