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Short interest in WeWork bonds jumps to record high

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Short bets against WeWork's bonds jumped to a record high this week, suggesting investors believe the office-sharing startup may again seek to raise money in the debt market after it filed to withdraw its initial public offering (IPO).

[NEW YORK] Short bets against WeWork's bonds jumped to a record high this week, suggesting investors believe the office-sharing startup may again seek to raise money in the debt market after it filed to withdraw its initial public offering (IPO).

The cost to borrow WeWork's high-yield debt was at its highest-ever on Tuesday, according to IHS Markit, with US$67 million of bonds on loan, approximately 10 per cent of the size of the total issue. Investors interested in shorting the company borrow the debt short-term with the expectation the price will fall.

There was a slight dip in the amount of bonds on loan to US$65 million on Wednesday morning, the latest available data from IHS Markit.

The price of WeWork's May 2025 7.875 per cent junk bond has fallen sharply, down 18.6 per cent in the last month to trade on Thursday at 83 cents on the dollar. Investors betting WeWork's bond price will decline further may be expecting the company to issue a new bond soon.

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The short interest "may in part be a bet that (WeWork) will come back to the high-yield market as borrowers to fund operations, which would likely be done at terms which would depress the value of current outstanding bonds", said Sam Pierson, director in securities finance at IHS Markit.

Pulling its IPO on Monday marked the conclusion of a tumultuous few weeks for We Company - the SoftBank-backed WeWork parent - which failed to excite investors who raised concerns about its burgeoning losses and a business model that involved taking long-term leases to offer short-term rentals.

The decision to scrap the public share sale puts pressure on WeWork to secure alternative funding, given that a US$6 billion loan deal with banks, agreed last month, hinged on a successful share sale of at least US$3 billion. Analysts have projected that WeWork will burn through several billion dollars over the next few years and thus needs to keep on raising fresh funds at favourable valuations.

REUTERS