WeWork is one of the largest flexible office providers globally, since its inception back in 2010 it has been at the forefront of flexible office solutions for businesses, offering a refreshing approach to workplace design and access. However, its journey has been a bit of rollercoaster ride in recent years, with leadership changes, management reorganisation, financial rescue packages, greater competition and not least of all the impact of the pandemic on its operations. Unfortunately, it is once again receiving much press attention, this time it is surrounding its viability to continue operating its centres, closer to home that could impact 50 centres across the UK.
The latest chapter in the WeWork story is not easy reading. Primarily its lease obligations and reducing membership numbers have significantly impacted its recent financial results, forcing it to make a statement about its future operations. So, it is no surprise that this is causing consternation amongst users and landlords alike.
WEWORK SHARE TRADING SUSPENDED – WHAT NEXT?
WeWork’s widely reported turnaround plan has taken a blow as trading of warrants in the embattled serviced office provider were suspended by the New York Stock Exchange because of its abnormally low trading prices. The suspension of warrant trading in the company comes as the NYSE proceeds to delist the company from the stock exchange.
A warrant allows a company’s stock to be bought or sold at a set price. The warrants that have been suspended are historic and the suspension of trading is not being challenged by WeWork. Regular share trading continues but remain at a low price that NYSE do not approve of. This is where WeWork’s reverse stock split plan comes in, in order to maintain NYSE listing. Essentially devaluing the company, converting 40 shares to just 1.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE COMPANY AND ITS CUSTOMERS?
The company’s regular stock/shares continue to be traded, but the question remains for how long, especially as current trading is in contravention NYSE’s $1 trading rule. Unless, its turnaround plan can start bearing fruit, then the latest news not only hurts WeWork’s financial viability but also seriously impacts its reputation and credibility with customers.
At this point is worth noting that the current situation is a WeWork problem and not a flexible office market problem. Businesses should not be put off by the failings of just one company. Whilst they remain one of the biggest operators, the market is made up of a diverse range of operators, spaces, locations and prices.
Since WeWork’s previous announcement just two weeks ago, more and more customers have expressed their concern; what if they go bust, what happens to our access, do we get our deposit back, can we exit our contract are some of the common questions we have been fielding.
For tenants, we reiterate that WeWork continues to trade and has not ceased operations. They continue to strive to operate all centres, globally, and do all that is possibility to maintain operations. If after reaching out to your WeWork centre manager(s) and any concerns are not quashed, then we urge you to talk to a flexible office market specialist.
As we advised earlier this month, businesses with contract expiries or are having renewal conversations then we suggest you pause and take stock of the market and all the solutions that are available. We would urge any company, regardless of operator and the current situation to take this route before entering negotiations.
For landlords, WeWork’s covenant and liquidity looks less than rosy and will certainly be called into question by many landlords and asset managers as administration of the UK business could well be on the cards. DeVono research shows that in 2022 and 2023 (H1) leasing across central London by other providers surpassed 705,000 sq ft, accounting for 5% share of leasing across that period. Now is the time to talk to flexible operators and understand their appetite to take on other centres into their portfolio, possibly entertaining a management service agreement.
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