It looks like acquisition-happy Softbank fancies a slice of the co-working sector.
Masayoshi Son, the CEO of Japanese software giant Softbank, is one of the tech world’s most interesting characters.
Fond of a spending-spree, or ten, the charismatic founder splashed close to £24 billion on Cambridge based chip-maker ARM last year, a deal so large he had to promise the British government to double the number of UK-based employees and guarantee that the company would remain headquartered in the UK.
No problem, he said, and started thinking about his next seismic investment, which turned out to be Fortress, the asset manager, acquired outright in an all-cash deal. No messing.
Rumour has it co-working “Unicorn” WeWork is next on the shopping list. This time Son and Softbank are keen to buy a slice, rather than the whole pie, and plan to inject around $3 billion into the free-beer dispensing collection of rented then sub-letted hipster hangouts.
Or it could be $4 billion – Softbank plan to start by funding a $2 billion dollar tranche of investment, followed by a round of $1 billion, or $2 billion, depending on how they feel.
If they go through with the deal, WeWork would achieve a valuation of over $20 billion, having raised a cool $1.69 billion already across 9 rounds, with backing from the likes of Goldman Sachs, T. Rowe Price, JP Morgan, and even the Harvard Management Company.
Both parties, perhaps surprisingly in Softbank’s case, are being coy about the deal, however, and refusing to comment.
WeWork is focused on opening new spaces in Beijing to go with its premises in Hong Kong and Shanghai in Asia, London, Paris and Berlin in Europe, as well as the US and the Americas.
The only cloud on the horizon? Softbank’s rising debt pile, which is spooking some analysts.
Are Son’s company splashing cash they don’t have? The founder has also promised a $100 billion tech fund to invest in European and UK tech companies, as well as promising Donald Trump he would invest $50 billion into the US, and create 50,000 jobs in the process.