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Takeover Battle For IWG Could Throw Light On WeWork’s $20B Valuation

The three-way bidding war to acquire U.K.-based shared office pioneer IWG values the company at $4.1B including debt, just seven times its earnings, the Wall Street Journal reports. That is in considerable contrast to WeWork's valuation of more than $20B, or about 20 times its earnings.

IWG CEO Mark Dixon

A $20B valuation puts WeWork in the same league for startup valuation as Uber, Airbnb and SpaceX — for a business model that is not all that different from IWG, which is considerably larger.

These highlights suggest the possibility of overvaluation of WeWork as an entity fueled, as the WSJ puts it, by Silicon Valley pixie dust.

Last November, in an interview with Bisnow, IWG founder and CEO Mark Dixon said WeWork seems to be dabbling in one too many things. 

"It can be easy to lose your focus. I am sure they are very good at what they do but this business needs a lot of capital and it can be very easy to make mistakes when you expand quickly," Dixon said. 

IWG has overcome a rocky start as Regus in the dot-com era to its present condition. After the dot-com bubble burst, it went through bankruptcy and has grown more cautiously since then.

As recently as October, the company released a profit warning, citing a weaker London market and disruption due to natural disasters in the United States, Reuters reported, though it bounced back by the end of last year.

In February, a previous takeover attempt by Canadian companies Brookfield and Onex fell through. The current competing bids to take over the company are by Starwood Capital, U.K. buyout specialist TDR Capital and U.S. private equity company Lone Star.

Currently, IWG has about 3,000 locations under various brands (Regus, Spaces) in 900 cities worldwide. For its part, WeWork now has about 170 locations and has been aggressively expanding in recent months, acquiring Meetup, Conductor and naked Hub in China. It has also raised $400M to acquire properties directly, Crunchbase reports.