The WeWork logo is displayed on the entrance of a co-working space in New York City, New York U.S., January 8, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / BRENDAN MCDERMID
The WeWork logo is displayed on the entrance of a co-working space in New York City, New York U.S., January 8, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / BRENDAN MCDERMID

New York/London — WeWork, the New York-based office-rental startup, is considering seeking a valuation of about $20bn-$30bn in its US initial public offering (IPO), people with knowledge of the matter said.

The range could end up closer to $20bn, said one of the people, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Potential terms for the share sale are still being discussed, and the eventual valuation could change depending on investor demand, the people said.

Those figures would mark a decline from the $47bn valuation WeWork achieved earlier in 2019 from an investment by SoftBank Group, its biggest backer. A representative for WeWork, whose parent is The We Co, declined to comment.

WeWork’s IPO plans filed last month were greeted by sometimes blistering criticism for the way it obscured key details about the economics of the business. The New York-based startup headed by Adam Neumann leases and owns spaces in office buildings, which it decorates and then rents out to companies from tiny startups to large corporations. It has raised more than $12bn since its founding nine years ago but has never turned a profit.

Neumann, a co-founder and polarising figure, has also courted controversy. Tangled business relationships involving Neumann and his family show an interdependence that runs deeper than most entrepreneurs to their creations and one that raises concern among prospective shareholders. In particular, Neumann owns several commercial properties that he leased to WeWork, and he has sold significant amounts of his equity ahead of the public stock offering.

According to the IPO filings, WeWork has lost $2.9bn in the past three years and $690m in just the first six months of 2019. Its annual revenue, though, had more than doubled to $1.8bn in 2018, compared with $886m the previous year.

WeWork is planning to kick off its IPO roadshow as soon as next week, Bloomberg News has reported. The company is targeting a share sale of about $3.5bn, a person familiar with the matter said in July. That would be the second-biggest IPO in 2019 behind Uber.

With Nabila Ahmed and Ellen Huet

Bloomberg