The largest tenant in all of New York City — WeWork, with 5.2 million square feet of space — shelved its plans to go public on Monday, a week after ditching its controversial co-founder and CEO, Adam Neumann.
While most Wall Street savants think WeWork’s failed initial public offering was a harbinger of things to come in the IPO market, the truth is that the reason for the failure lies in WeWork’s untested and fatally flawed business model.
WeWork isn’t just a tenant — it is also a landlord. It typically rents large spaces, then creates ultra-modern workspaces out of them to re-rent out on short-term leases. It also owns some of the buildings in which it rents out spaces.
The WeWork idea is great for startups, people who want to network or even companies that wish to have a flexible presence in a city without having to manage the space or deal with long-term contracts.
But too much of WeWork’s space is dedicated to communal areas: couches, cubbyholes and chit-chat spots that do not generate revenue.
And that’s a problem in high-rent cities like New York, London and Washington, DC, where space is at a premium.
WeWork hasn’t even experienced the down times — yet it can’t make money even in this best of economic climates. For the first six months of 2019, the company lost $689.7 million on revenues of just $1.54 billion.
So it’s really no surprise that the IPO roadshow wasn’t well received — especially considering Neumann sold $750 million worth of stock leading up to it.
Kudos to WeWork parent We Co. for picking up on the space needs of the telecommuter and startup markets. But it has too many meaningful operational problems for its IPO to have been a success.
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