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SoftBank-backed WeWork to go public

Money-losing shared-office provider joins pool of tech startups preparing IPO

NEW YORK -- WeWork, the workspace rental company heavily backed by Japan's SoftBank Group, said Monday that it has filed paperwork toward an initial public offering.

The money-losing New York-based company -- which recently renamed itself The We Company to pursue avenues beyond office-sharing -- will join a pool of technology startups going public or seeking to this year, including Lyft, Zoom, Uber and Slack.

WeWork confidentially filed a draft statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December and filed an amendment to it last week, co-founder Adam Neumann told employees Monday in a memo seen by the Nikkei Asian Review.

The amendment came after "a lot of thought" and marks "a step towards allowing us to decide to become a public company," Neumann wrote.

"From the first day, the goal of our company has always been about making a difference, impacting as many people as possible, and creating a world where people make a life and not just a living. We have regularly focused on how to take our business to the next level in every aspect," the memo said.

WeWork launched in 2010 and has expanded across the world. It boasts a presence in 10 Asian countries, including India, China and Japan. The popular workspace rental service throws a substantial amount of cash into real estate and renovations, as WeWork needs to offer well-designed space in convenient locations to attract clients.

The company relies on membership fees and rent to bring in money. To fund the costly expansions, WeWork has received billions of dollars from private investors, including over $10 billion from SoftBank, according to a WeWork spokesperson.

SoftBank initially wanted to inject $16 billion into WeWork, though the Japanese tech group significantly reduced the funding to $2 billion after WeWork's losses ballooned. The shared-office provider's losses in the first nine months of 2018 almost quadrupled from 2017 to $1.2 billion, while its revenue came to $1.5 billion for the 12 months ended September.

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