WeWork to Fire Over Two Thousand Employees as Cash Crunch Bites

Oct 15, 2019
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The state of affairs at WeWork, the company that provides shared workspaces, appears to resemble a slow-motion train wreck these days. In a bombshell development, the company is expected to layoff at least 2,000 employees within days. This figure constitutes 13 percent of the company’s total staff of 15,000 and, according to sources within the company, as much as a third of WeWork’s total headcount remains on the chopping block.

This news of a mass layoff is hardly surprising given that the company is pursuing an aggressive cost-cutting strategy to stave off a worsening liquidity crisis. Multiple sources have reported that the troubled company’s liquidity situation has reached a critical threshold where it could face bankruptcy by the end of November if alternate funding sources are not secured immediately (read our related coverage here). SoftBank (TYO:9984), which already owns one-third of WeWork, is reportedly working on a financial rescue package that would allow the Japanese telecoms-to-technology group to raise its stake in the troubled company to over 50 percent. Moreover, WeWork has also been working vehemently with the Wall Street titan, JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) to try to raise at least $5 billion in new debts to ease the ongoing cash crunch. While scrambling for new funding sources, WeWork is also trying to cut costs across the board. According to internal staff sources quoted by the Guardian newspaper, ongoing projects are being placed on hold and little work gets done amid the chaotic atmosphere at the company.

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Until recently, WeWork was counted among the most valuable private American companies with 527,000 tenants. Moreover, at the start of the year, SoftBank valued the workspace provider at a whopping $47 billion. Since that time, however, things have only gone from bad to worse for the company. WeWork’s prospective investors grew increasingly reticent over the fiscal efficacy of the company’s business model that centers on capturing the differential generated by leasing properties for the long-term at a lower cost and then renting these properties to enterprises for the short-term at a higher rental rate. Moreover, the revelations of the antics of the company’s co-founder, Adam Neumann, coupled with grave breaches of corporate governance standards only served to further alienate investors. Therefore, before its IPO was shelved, the company’s valuation had reportedly declined to somewhere between $10 billion and $20 billion. The postponement of the IPO served a huge blow to the overall liquidity of the company which was relying on the public flotation of its shares to unlock fresh credit from a consortium of banks. This explains WeWork’s ongoing frantic search for fresh funding sources.

Interestingly, the shelving of WeWork’s IPO has struck a massive blow to the perceived investing acumen of the SoftBank Group Corp. which, along with its gargantuan Vision Fund, has invested over $11 billion in the troubled workspace provider. This follows some of the other SoftBank’s investments that have not fared well recently. For example, Uber (NYSE:UBER) and Slack (NYSE:WORK) have both lost over a third of their value since debuting on the public market as investors shunned these companies over their high cash burn problems. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, is reportedly “embarrassed and flustered” by the crumbling of some of his high-profile investments.

WeWork’s survival as a viable business now hinges on securing a financial lifeline that its investors and creditors are reluctant to provide. Until such a lifeline is secured, the company is likely to continue cutting costs wherever possible to preserve its dwindling cash reserves. Consequently, further reduction in the company’s workforce seems to be inevitable at this stage.

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