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WeWork Inc. WE-N shares tanked nearly 50 per cent to a record low on Wednesday following media reports that the flexible workspace provider was planning to file for bankruptcy as early as next week.

The New York-based firm, struggling with a heavy debt load and hefty losses for a few years now, was once privately valued at US$47-billion and now has a market capitalization of just about US$121-million.

The potential bankruptcy filing would follow a series of setbacks for the SoftBank-backed company since its IPO plans imploded in 2019 on skepticism over its business model of taking long-term leases and renting them for short term.

WeWork, which finally went public in 2021 at a much reduced valuation than initially expected, remains a black spot for SoftBank that sunk billions in efforts to prop up the startup that has never turned a profit.

WeWork is mulling over filing a Chapter 11 petition in New Jersey, The Wall Street Journal first reported on Tuesday.

The company decided to withhold interest payment due on Nov. 1 on senior notes due 2025, even as it has the cash to make the payment, it said on Tuesday. WeWork had warned it could go bankrupt in August.

“Whether or not WeWork can reach a short-term accommodation with bondholders to stave off a near-term bankruptcy, it likely holds many long-term office leases that will need to be restructured or written off,” said Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at CI Roosevelt Private Wealth in New York.

“WeWork remains a significant tenant in some major urban office markets and its failure or restructuring may further weigh on industry fundamentals.”

The stock was last trading at a historic low of US$1.18, the latest in a string of record lows, after losing about 96 per cent of its value this year.

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