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WeWork in China will it

  • Author:Max Lin
  • Release on:2016-12-29

Money is fleeing China. Not all of China, though: the right investment idea can still attract cash. Late on Wednesday WeWork, the New York-based office space start-up, said it had received $430m in funding from investors including two China-based private equity funds, Hony Capital and Legend Holdings (they are affiliates). The deal values the company at $16bn.

WeWork takes long-term leases on buildings, fitting them out and renting desks and offices to start-ups. The deal marks the two Chinese fund houses’ largest investment in a US company, according to Dealogic data. In the past three years, Hony and Legend have been involved in at least $8bn worth of transactions. Until now, only two of the top 20 — Hony’s buyout of the UK’s PizzaExpress and its recent purchase of a stake in Australian energy company Santos — have been in China. Still, Hony and Legend are not straying from familiar territory with WeWork: the funds raised will be used to help the company expand in Asia, with China a focus.

In keeping with the bubbly trend for unlisted start-ups, the pricing is frothy. Regus, a UK-listed flexible workplace provider, is valued at just $4bn. That company claims 3,000 centres in 120 countries with 1.5m members. For a valuation four times as large, WeWork — still mainly US-focused — has 77 spaces in 23 cities to service its 50,000 customers.

Many US companies have struggled to make headway in the Chinese market, even with domestic money behind them. Of the stable of “unicorns” — private companies valued highly by the market — Uber has been one of the most high-profile. The taxi-hailing app has faced stiff competition from local rival Didi Kuaiche, formed of two companies that merged last year, uniting forces against the US interloper. Last month, the company revealed it is burning more than $1bn a year in China — more than half the amount it raised in a China funding round in late 2015.

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