SoftBank hits roadblock in getting $3bn loans to rescue WeWork

Talks stalled with Japan's three biggest banks, which are concerned about credit risks facing office sharing firm.

    WeWork cancelled its initial public offering earlier in the year due to investor concerns over corporate governance and profitability issues [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]
    WeWork cancelled its initial public offering earlier in the year due to investor concerns over corporate governance and profitability issues [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

    SoftBank Group Corp's talks to secure $3bn from Japan's three biggest banks have stalled as the lenders hit their internal lending limits to the firm, two people have told the Reuters News Agency, complicating a $9.5bn rescue package for WeWork.

    The Japanese technology conglomerate is now likely to enter the new year without the WeWork financing in place, the people said, adding the banks are also concerned about the risks involved in rescuing the United States office-sharing startup.

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    Mizuho Financial Group Inc, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (MUFG) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (SMFG) are seeking ways to provide the financing while offsetting exposure, the people said, declining to be identified because the information is not public.

    SoftBank did not respond to a request by Reuters for comment. Mizuho, MUFG and SMFG declined to comment.

    One option is to use some of SoftBank's 26 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd as collateral, the people said.

    "SoftBank is an important client so we want to do everything we can to help, but we have to consider our credit risk," said a senior banker.

    The talks illustrate the difficulty SoftBank poses for Japan's banks. Founder Masayoshi Son's tech juggernaut has long been a lucrative source of corporate lending in the world's third-largest economy, where banks typically have to lend at ultra-low interest rates given years of deflation.

    But SoftBank's growing debt and turmoil at WeWork earlier this year also highlight the firm's higher risk profile.

    "Banks cannot loosen their credit criteria only for SoftBank," said S&P Global Ratings senior director Ryoji Yoshizawa.

    Another option to spread the risk is a syndicated loan, Yoshizawa said, adding that this would be time-consuming - potentially delaying financing.

    Debt pile

    SoftBank in October said it would launch a $9.5bn bailout of WeWork after the cancellation of the startup's initial public offering due to investor concerns over its corporate governance and cofounder Adam Neumann's hard-partying ways.

    Son has said he turned a blind eye to Neumann's management, but that the company is still a solid business.

    The domestic bank deadlock led SoftBank to secure a $1.75bn line of credit from Goldman Sachs Group Inc, the people said.

    Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

    SoftBank has 5.5 trillion yen ($50.28bn) in outstanding bonds and another four trillion yen ($36.57bn) in bank loans, Refinitiv data showed. Its weighted average cost of debt is 3.7 percent, the seventh-highest among all companies on the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

    Moody's calculations showed the conglomerate's interest coverage ratio is 1.3, meaning group income is enough to service its debt, with some left over.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency