WeWork reassures investors it has enough cash to weather coronavirus downturn
WeWork is telling investors it has enough cash on hand to execute its long-term plans and weather the near-term challenges posed by COVID-19.
In a seven-slide deck for investors, WeWork said it had $4.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents as of the end of 2019. The company is expected to release full-year financial results after the market closes on Thursday.
In a letter obtained by CNBC, WeWork’s executive chairman, Marcelo Claure, and CEO, Sandeep Mathrani, say that the company “has a strategic plan and a sound financial position.”
WeWork is the second SoftBank-backed company to reassure investors that its cash position will get it through an increasingly uncertain and volatile year.
Last week, Uber told investors that it had enough cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet to weather the impact of COVID-19 as ridesharing numbers plunge.
But Uber had $11.4 billion in cash and short term investments as of the end of 2019. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that in a worst-case scenario, it would still have access to $4 billion, including a $2 billion line of credit.
WeWork’s cash position at the end of 2019, at $4.4 billion, is less than half of what Uber had on hand.
The company also continues to bleed cash, reporting $1.25 billion in losses in the third quarter of 2019 alone, a sharp increase from the same period a year earlier.
In addition, WeWork could face a costly board fight with SoftBank just as the company navigates new challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
CNBC previously reported that SoftBank is backing away from a $3 billion tender offer, part of its rescue plan put in place after WeWork’s failed attempt to go public in 2019. WeWork notes in its letter that the tender offer, under which SoftBank would have purchased shares from existing shareholders, would not provide additional liquidity to the company anyway.
Concerns about WeWork’s financial position have been building since last year, after founder and CEO Adam Neumann stepped down amid corporate governance missteps and the startup’s valuation fell from $47 billion to $7.8 billion.
In a global downturn, WeWork’s business model of renting short-term office space, while holding longer-term leases, is particularly vulnerable.
Last year, Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren raised concerns about the coworking business model, saying that their rise may be a source of financial instability that could make the next U.S. recession worse by sparking a run on commercial real estate.
WeWork became the largest tenant in “flexible office” space in 2019, according to real-estate brokerage firm CBRE.
As of Thursday morning, WeWork’s three Wuhan, China, locations and all spaces in India remained closed while all North American locations are open.