WeWork’s parent company is considering seeking a valuation in the $20 billion range for its planned IPO, according to the Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the news Thursday. The company was previously valued at as much as $47 billion on the private market, according to CB Insights, a research firm that tracks venture capital.
The We Company declined to comment.
Last month, the company filed its IPO paperwork, the contents of which raised a number of red flag, including a history of steep losses and a controversial approach to corporate governance. Meanwhile, other prominent, unprofitable tech companies that have gone public this year, including Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT), are struggling on Wall Street.
“The valuation has to be very reasonable for the public market at this point in time,” said Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, a provider of institutional research and IPO ETFs. “Public investors have seen the results of some other money-losing companies such as Uber and Lyft and how they’re trading so poorly.”
The We Company posted a staggering $1.9 billion loss last year, an unprecedented amount for a company about to go public. Adam Neumann, the company’s CEO and cofounder, is set to wield considerable control over WeWork, thanks to its plans to create multiple classes of stock that give him more voting power. And the IPO prospectus showed Neumann has made millions of dollars by leasing properties back to the company, raising concerns about conflicts of interest.
In the face of criticism, The We Company said in a filing this week that Neumann has repaid the company $5.9 million in stock that his holding company, WE Holdings LLC, received after selling off its trademark of the word “We” to The We Company. In January, WeWork rebranded itself as The We Company to serve as an umbrella company to its various businesses.
In addition to the pricing change, The We Company also attempted to appease some critics by adding Harvard Business professor Frances Frei to its board when it goes public. The company’s board is made up entirely of men – meaning a major segment of its community is not currently represented, which is awkward for a company whose primary selling point is community.
“They’ve been responding to feedback – that’s encouraging,” Smith said.
The We Company disclosed in its prospectus that it expects to raise up to $6 billion in debt concurrent with the close of its public offering. The funds could help the coworking space provider continue its rapid expansion around the world even with its steep losses.