Temasek, Trustbridge Eye WeWork China Buyout, Reuters Says

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(Bloomberg) -- Temasek Holdings Pte and Trustbridge Partners have held discussions to buy a majority stake in WeWork’s Chinese business, Reuters cited unidentified people as saying.

The pair submitted a takeover proposal to WeWork-backer SoftBank Group Corp. at the end of 2019 that would value the Chinese unit at about $1 billion, Reuters reported. But the discussions are at an early stage and a deal wasn’t certain, it added. Representatives for Temasek and WeWork declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg. Li Shujun, the founder of Trustbridge, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed query.

SoftBank is in the midst of overhauling WeWork, the once high-flying shared-office startup that became a cautionary tale after a failed IPO attempt and dramatic valuation writedown. Masayoshi Son’s Japanese investment powerhouse, which had to bail out the struggling firm last year, has warned founders in its portfolio to rein in excess and seek ways to boost the bottom line.

In China, WeWork contends with several well-connected and aggressive rivals. Ucommune, its closest competitor in China, has filed for a U.S. IPO. Founded by Mao Daqing, a well-known figure in China’s property and tech circles, the startup is among a crop of players now racing to set up shared office space across the country.

Some analysts argue that WeWork can have a bright future if SoftBank overhauls the business plan and more carefully focuses on the evolution of the corporate office market. Chris Lane of Sanford C. Bernstein said WeWork can achieve profitability if it pulls back on extraneous areas and calms a frenetic pace of expansion to focus on filling up existing space.

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