WeWork has had a tumultuous few weeks as it tried — and failed — to set a date for its initial public offering shortly before its eccentric CEO stepped down, and Banyan Hill’s Ted Bauman thinks it’s a warning sign for investors.
WeWork was supposed to launch its highly anticipated IPO later this year, but last week it delayed the plans to some time in 2020 after the company’s valuation tanked and investors questioned its profitability. On Tuesday, WeWork CEO Adam Neumann stepped down amid growing scrutiny of his actions while running the company.
Bauman, senior analyst for Banyan Hill and editor of “The Bauman Letter,” appeared on Fox Business’ “Varney and Co.” on Wednesday, where he questioned if WeWork’s IPO would ever come to fruition.
“They’re not going to go public this year, they’re not going to go public next year,” Bauman predicted for host Stuart Varney. “In fact, there’s a big question mark on whether this is a sustainable business model in the first place.”
WeWork has grown rapidly, amassing $1.8 billion in revenue for 2018. But its losses have shot up just as fast, hitting $1.6 billion over the same period, according to the Associated Press.
Bauman thinks the IPO delay is a positive for the company.
“I think it’s good that this thing actually happened now before it left ordinary retail investors holding the bag,” Bauman said. “This is not a company that has a business model that can succeed.”
WeWork was privately valued at $47 billion back in January, but that number has been slashed to around $20 billion on the high end, and likely lower. Bauman argues that WeWork was trying to ride the wave of other successful tech startups — even though it’s actually a real estate company — and investors didn’t bite.
“This was not a technology IPO, this was a real estate IPO that was masquerading as a technology IPO in order to try and get the momentum that tech enjoys,” Bauman said.
He went on to emphasize how important it is for investors to thoroughly research companies before making the call to back them.
“You have to look at these things on a company-by-company basis, and certainly this is going to lead investors to look very carefully at companies’ S-1s, and look at their underlying profitability and their business model before they leap in,” Bauman advised.
WeWork’s chief investor, SoftBank, is a perfect case in point. SoftBank CEO and venture capitalist Masayoshi Son invested $11 billion in the office-sharing startup in January, which led to its exorbitant valuation of almost $50 billion. But that could be all for naught as Bauman raised the question: “What does this do to the venture capital side of the equation?”
“I think … fundamentally what you’ve got is a situation where a guy with a great deal of money sits down with a guy who’s very charismatic,” he said. “And they decide that something can be profitable without talking to any economists or anybody who actually understands the business that’s going on.
“And I don’t think that’s going to carry on forever.”
Check out video of the interview in its entirety below: