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Exclusive: WeWork to press on with IPO launch despite valuation concerns - sources

By Anirban Sen and Joshua Franklin

By Anirban Sen and Joshua Franklin

(Reuters) - WeWork owner The We Company plans to proceed with an investor roadshow for its initial public offering (IPO) as early as next week, braving concerns over the valuation it can achieve in a listing, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The company's IPO has been in doubt since Thursday, after sources said the U.S. office sharing startup now estimated it could be valued at a little over $20 billion in a listing, less than half the $47 billion valuation it achieved in a private fundraising round in January.

Growing investor scepticism over We Company's lack of a roadmap to profitability, and its co-founder Adam Neumann's firm grip on its governance, are weighing on its IPO prospects.

A big drop in We Company's valuation would be a blow to its existing investors, including its biggest backer, Japan's SoftBank Group Corp <9984.T>.

We Company told its IPO underwriters and potential stock market investors on Friday to expect the launch of the roadshow as early as the middle of next week, the sources said.

The sources cautioned that no final decision on beginning the roadshow has been taken and the plans are still subject to change. We Company declined to comment.

An IPO roadshow is typically a 10-day period when companies solicit feedback from investors with the aim of convincing them to buy shares in the IPO. We Company would be hoping to convince investors to give it a valuation closer to what its venture capital backers placed on it.

We Company rents out workspace to clients under short-term contracts and pays rent for the properties under long-term leases.

The New York-based company lost more than $900 million in the first half of 2019, up 25% from a year earlier, even though its revenue doubled to $1.54 billion, as it burned through cash to expand.

The mounting losses and concerns over how its business model would survive an economic downturn have raised scepticism from analysts and investors about the IPO.

In August, We Company secured bank commitments for a $6 billion credit facility contingent on it raising billions of dollars in an IPO.

Complicating matters further, the company is looking to go public against a turbulent market backdrop, with the U.S.-China trade war making for the worst August for U.S. stocks in four years.

If We Company proceeds with its IPO, its private investors may take a loss on any shares sold, but they can make that up in the future if the company is able to achieve its projected valuation, said Adam Troso, head of real estate corporate advisory at Greenhill & Co, a New York investment bank.

"There's still an opportunity (for the value) to go back up to where you expect it to be. That's how an underwriter would explain it to his clients," Troso said.



(Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bangalore and Joshua Franklin in New York; additional reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; editing by Chris Reese)