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SoftBank invests US$3b more in WeWork
[NEW YORK] WeWork, the co-working office company, has expanded rapidly over its eight-year life span, thanks in part to huge investments from SoftBank of Japan. On Tuesday, it secured another big cash infusion from its largest investor.
WeWork announced that SoftBank had committed an additional US$3 billion at a valuation of at least US$42 billion. That is more than double the US$20 billion level that WeWork attained in its last fundraising round over a year ago and makes WeWork one of the most valuable privately held venture-backed companies in America.
SoftBank is injecting the new cash in exchange for a warrant to buy additional shares in WeWork.
The deal highlights the costs of WeWork's ambitious empire-building. The company is not only expanding rapidly around the world, it is also moving beyond its primary business of leasing and reselling office space into education, apartments and more.
The company said Tuesday that it had 297,000 available desks in 24 countries and planned to open more than 100,000 new office desks for rent this quarter, the same amount it opened all of last year. WeWork said it generated US$1.25 billion in revenue for the first nine months of 2018 and was on a pace to exceed US$2 billion in sales by year-end.
Still, to fund its expansion, WeWork needs money. The company also disclosed Tuesday that it lost US$1.22 billion through the first nine months of this year after losing US$933 million in 2017. And earlier this year, it issued US$700 million worth of bonds.
One question is whether such losses would affect investors' appetite for a WeWork initial public offering. WeWork's president, Arthur Minson, declined to comment on the potential timing for an initial offering but contended that the company could start making money if it stopped its breakneck expansion. For now, that is not under consideration.
"We're going to continue to focus on the opportunity ahead," he said in an interview.
Helping subsidise WeWork's ambitions is money from SoftBank, which already owned a nearly 20 per cent stake in WeWork.
Tuesday's commitment leaves unclear the state of WeWork's discussions to sell more of itself to SoftBank. Just last month, the two companies discussed SoftBank's taking a majority stake in WeWork. Minson declined to comment on the matter.
SoftBank has become one of the most prolific tech investors after it raised its nearly US$100 billion Vision Fund last year to take stakes in transformative technology companies. Tuesday's deal with WeWork makes the co-working company one of its biggest bets to date.
The deal came from SoftBank itself, unlike last year's investment, which came from the Vision Fund. Nearly half of that fund's enormous war chest comes from Saudi Arabia, a fact that stirred a debate within Silicon Valley about whether startups should accept its money in the wake of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mr Minson declined to comment on WeWork's having taken money from the Saudi government through the Vision Fund.