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WeWork IPO: 4 Things to Know About the Office-Sharing Company

By Jeremy Bowman - Apr 30, 2019 at 2:17PM

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The fast-growing start-up took the confidential route in filing to go public. Here are the key numbers.

A blockbuster year for IPOs just got bigger.

WeWork, the office-sharing juggernaut -- now officially known as the We Company -- just filed confidential paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. Unlike most IPO filings, WeWork did not divulge the usual data on past performance and future opportunities that come with the investor prospectus. However, we do know some key figures from the limited financial results that WeWork has shared in the past.

With WeWork's IPO now set for sometime in the near future, here are four key things that investors should know about the fast-growing start-up, which counts the WeLive apartment rental business and WeGrow school among its business segments.

A WeWork workspace with professionally dressed men and women sitting at desks working on laptop computers.

Image source: WeWork.

1. Revenue is surging...

WeWork's revenue more than doubled in 2018, climbing 105% to $1.82 billion. Sales have surged as the company has continued its breakneck expansion that now totals 651 locations in 114 cities in 36 countries. It's also built up its business with the enterprise market, working with clients like UBSPinterest, and Sprint. Last year, revenue from enterprise clients accounted for 32% of revenue, up from 23% the year before.

WeWork, which was founded in 2010, also said that it had reached an annualized revenue of $2.43 billion in the fourth quarter.  

2. ... But so are losses

Those investments in new office space have been expensive. Last year, the company's net loss increased 104% to $1.93 billion. The losses appear to be a direct result of its aggressive expansion. WeWork says that individual locations are substantially profitable once they are up and running and at a stable occupancy rate. It finished 2018 with an 80% occupancy rate and revenue of $6,360 per member. 

On the basis of "community-adjusted" EBITDA, a metric WeWork invented that excludes marketing, administrative, and other costs, the company reported a profit of $467.1 million, double from the year before. However, without seeing its full financial results, it's hard to say if that figure has any real meaning.

Explaining that WeWork's losses are a consequence of its growth strategy rather than a flaw in its model, WeWork President Artie Minson told The New York Times, "We can very much, if we chose to, moderate our growth and become profitable. But it's a time for us to continue to accelerate."

3. It's already worth $47 billion

WeWork was valued at $47 billion in its last funding round. The company received a $2 billion investment from Softbank (SFTBF 2.82%) in January, bringing its total investment in WeWork to $10.4 billion. At the time, the two were in negotiations for an investment of as much as $16 billion from Softbank, but the bank pulled out of that deal after its stock plunged at the end of 2018 along with much of the global market. 

The diminished investment from Softbank sparked concerns about where WeWork would get future funding, especially as the company is posting multibillion-dollar yearly losses. WeWork has sought to reassure investors, saying that it has $6.6 billion in cash and committed capital to operate with. The recently curtailed funding from Softbank, as well as the ripe IPO market, may explain WeWork's decision to go public now. The move should reap billions more in funding to help fuel its expansion.

4. The big picture

Nine years after it first launched, WeWork is far and away the biggest coworking company in the world. Though WeWork competes against smaller regional players, its aggressive growth, brand, reputation, and global reach have given the company a first-mover advantage.

WeWork has drawn comparisons to other money-losing start-ups like UberLyft, Groupon, or Snap. But that may not be the best comparison since WeWork, by all indications, seems to be profitable on a unit-level basis.

The company has also become a preferred partner for consulting and office renovation projects for large corporations. Under a segment called by Powered by We, the company will redesign corporate space for clients, essentially providing a high-margin service business as opposed to the capital-heavy office leases that make up its core coworking business. WeWork now counts 30% of the Fortune 500 as its clients. 

Whether WeWork deserves its $47 billion valuation is a fair question, but this isn't a company that's going to collapse the next time a recession happens, as some have suggested. It's well capitalized, provides a valuable service, and has a unique and disruptive model. 

We'll learn more as it reveals more data ahead of its IPO, but investors can count on WeWork to make a splash once it hits the public markets later this year. 

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