SoftBank has a roughly 29% stake in the We Co., WeWork’s parent, said one executive at an analyst call on Wednesday, after the company plowed a total of $10.65 billion into the startup. The Tokyo conglomerate’s massive stake is a vote of confidence in the unprofitable company, which lost about $1.61 billion last year.
Perhaps more than any other startup, WeWork has come to symbolize the brash investment style of SoftBank and its $100 billion Vision Fund, known for making huge bets on promising but unproven companies, and spurring others in the industry to follow suit to compete. The success or failure of WeWork’s initial public offering is likely to be read as a statement on the overall standing of SoftBank, the judgment of its executives and its ability to raise cash for future ventures.
Now, SoftBank’s big bet may already be turning sour as WeWork mulls an IPO that would peg its worth at less than half its $47 billion valuation when SoftBank invested earlier this year. The New York-based company is now said to be considering a market debut at just $20 to $30 billion, fueling tensions among SoftBank employees.
The WeWork IPO comes at a critical time for SoftBank, which is currently trying to convince investors to bankroll a second $108 billion iteration of its Vision Fund. The company is already mopping up the fallout from another poorly performing IPO. SoftBank put $7.7 billion into Uber, whose market value promptly fell after shares listed publicly at $45 in May. That price has since fallen to about $35, well below the price SoftBank paid for part of its stake.