WeWork losses widen to US$1.25 billion amid record office space expansion

WeWork losses widen to US$1.25 billion amid record office space expansion

FILE PHOTO: WeWork offices in San Francisco
FILE PHOTO: A WeWork logo is seen outside its offices in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kate Munsch/File Photo

NEW YORK: The We Company, owner of WeWork, said on Wednesday (Nov 13) net losses in the third quarter more than doubled to US$1.25 billion as the money-losing shared-office operator added a record number of desks to its global network but was unable to control rising costs.

WeWork opened 97 new sites in the quarter ended Sep 30, its biggest quarterly expansion ever, taking its total number of offices to 625 from 528 at the end of June, a presentation of its earnings that was provided to bondholders showed.

The company also expanded the number of cities in which it operates by 16, increasing its worldwide footprint to a total of 127 and the number of countries in which it has sites by four to 33, the presentation, which Reuters reviewed, showed.

The number of desks it offers customers rose to a record 115,000 in the quarter to reach 719,000, including its India affiliate. A year earlier it had 354,000 desks.

The company had US$2 billion in cash at the end of the third quarter, with US$600 million of that from three Asian affiliates.

WeWork also had US$3.4 billion in commitments from SoftBank Group Corp , which gained control of the company in October, and another US$1.5 billion in existing warrants from SoftBank that were exercised last month, the presentation showed.

Gross profit from the sale of workplace memberships and service revenue rose in the third quarter to US$808 million from US$454 million in the year-ago quarter.

But losses widened from US$497 million a year earlier as costs grew faster than WeWork's breakneck expansion, which new management aims to curb in the wake of a disastrous effort to go public. Yet a pipeline of leasing commitments means rapid growth will likely continue in the fourth quarter and into 2020.

The development of new locations jumped to US$288 million from US$69 million a year earlier; general and administrative costs rose to US$157 million from US$81 million; while sales and marketing reached US$194 million versus US$108 million.

A presentation to bondholders that WeWork released last week showed a 90-day plan in which the company revealed it will divest seven "non-core" units, prioritise "profitable" growth and "right-size" operations.

The Oct 11 presentation said administrative jobs would be cut, along with jobs in WeWork's venture capital arm and in so-called growth-related functions, a possible reference to design and construction units. The size of job cuts was not mentioned.

WeWork's crash has confounded industry experts who praise the company for making flexible workspace a product large corporations desire but whose financial structure baffles.

"WeWork was the highest payer for space, and was also the cheapest provider of space," said Ryan Simonetti, chief executive and co-founder of Convene, an events and flex space operator backed by Brookfield Asset Management, among others.

"We have lost deals to customers in the last 12 to 18 months where they were paying less than WeWork was paying for the real estate itself," Simonetti told reporters on Tuesday at a news conference to discuss the industry. "That doesn’t make sense."

As WeWork restructures, the company will have fewer locations as it gets rid of non-performing sites, Simonetti said.

WeWork shelved its plans to go public on Sep 30 after investors grew wary of its losses, business model and corporate governance that had forced former CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann to resign a week earlier.

The company, valued at US$47 billion when it registered to go public in August, saw its valuation plummet as it bled cash, leading SoftBank to bail out WeWork with a pledge of US$6.5 billion in October.

Source: Reuters