At least one mystery bidder is circling the serviced office giant previously known as Regus in the wake of an autumn profit warning which sent its shares crashing.
Sky News has learnt that International Workplace Group (IWG) has been sounded out about a potential takeover in the last two months valuing the company at about £2.5bn.
The identity of the prospective bidder was unclear this weekend, with analysts speculating that the likes of Blackstone and Brookfield – both of which have extensive track records as investors in real estate-backed companies – could be interested.
It was also unclear whether bid talks were still active, although City sources said a takeover approach had been informally pitched at about 270p-a-share, a 35% premium to Friday’s closing price.
Mark Dixon, IWG’s founder and chief executive, owns a 25% stake in the company, and is said to be open to the possibility of a takeover.
The company, which runs about 3000 sites in more than 100 countries, has a market value of just over £1.8bn, having seen its shares tumble about 17% over the last year.
They now trade at barely half the 392p record high they reached in June, before a profit warning that Mr Dixon partly blamed on a “Brexit effect” in the UK market.
IWG has a big presence in London, where it is facing increasing competition from WeWork, the self-styled technology start-up which recently raised $4.4bn in new funding from investors including Japan’s SoftBank.
That investment valued WeWork at $20bn, giving the company a valuation roughly eight times that of IWG despite having fewer than one-tenth of the number of office locations.
Flexible office provision has become an increasingly attractive sector to investors amid the changing nature of corporate working in major cities around the world.
The Office Group, a British company, was sold to Blackstone this year for £500m, while London Executive Offices, a provider of premium workspaces, has drawn takeover interest from bidders including the billionaire owners of The Daily Telegraph.
IWG, which continues to trade under the Regus brand as well as Spaces, a more upmarket proposition, is no stranger to takeover gossip.
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Earlier this year, Mr Dixon was rumoured to be in talks with potential buyers – but promptly sold a £94m chunk of his shareholding, scotching the speculation.
An IWG spokeswoman declined to comment on Saturday.