In a step that is aimed at expanding its reach beyond the tech and telecom market segments, Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp is reportedly close to making an investment in U.S. office-sharing startup WeWork whose value is expected to be worth over $3 billion, according to media reports.
Including the most recent all-cash deal to buy asset manager Fortress Investment Group, SoftBank has made a string of surprising acquisitions and investments over the past months under the leadership of founder Masayashi Son.
The firms last year announced the formation of the world’s largest private equity investors that would be made by the creation of a tech investment fund with Saudi Arabia that could grow to $100 billion and this was indicative of the move of the company towards cutting-edge tech investments as telecoms services markets mature, and hence the reports of the latest acquisition is being viewed as the next logical step towards meeting that end.
News conglomerate CNBC reported, citing an anonymous source that a $2 billion primary tranche of funding in New York-based WeWork is being looked at by SoftBank and which is expected to be followed by a more than $1 billion investment in a secondary round.
Media reports further said that for a total investment of almost $4 billion, the company could increase the size of the secondary investment to nearly $2 billion. WeWork would be valued at more than $20 billion if the deal closed.
There were no comments were made by either SoftBank or WeWork.
Two people at one of WeWork’s investors were quotedin the media saying that SoftBank had been in discussions for some time regarding an investment.
WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey told reporters in Hong Kong last week that the company plans to expand to Beijing in May and the company now provides shared workspaces to start-ups in the Americas, Europe, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
McKelvey said, without indicating a time frame that ahead of an expected public listing, it will continue to raise capital for expansion.
About $700 million into WeWork was invested into the company last year, among others, by Chinese private equity giant Hony Capital, its backer Legend Holdings Corp and property developer China Oceanwide Holdings Ltd.
Noting less than that reported by CNBC but still making it among the world’s most valuable start-ups, the deal valued WeWork at $16.7 billion, Hony said.
Compared with a 1.4 fall for the benchmark Nikkei average, SoftBank shares fell as much as 2.3 percent in morning trade.
Last year, chip designer ARM Holdings, Britain’s most valuable technology company, for $32 billion was bought by SoftBank which is a diverse company that holds stakes in U.S. carrier Sprint, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and other firms.
After meeting U.S. President Donald Trump in early December, Son also promised a $50 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs in the United States.
As it is wrestling with a heavy debt pile, some of SoftBank’s moves have caused concern among analysts.
(Adapted from CNBC)