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WeWork plans to file for bankruptcy as early as next week - source

FILE PHOTO: The logo of WeWork is seen in the window of a building in London

(Reuters) -WeWork plans to file for bankruptcy as early as next week, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, as the SoftBank Group-backed company struggles with a massive debt pile and hefty losses.

Shares of the flexible workspace provider fell 32% in extended trading after the Wall Street Journal first reported the news. They have fallen roughly 96% this year.

New York-based WeWork is considering filing a Chapter 11 petition in New Jersey, the WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

WeWork declined to comment.

Earlier on Tuesday, WeWork said it had entered into an agreement with creditors for temporary postponement of payments for some of its debt, with the grace period nearing an end.

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The company had net long-term debt of $2.9 billion as of June end and more than $13 billion in long-term leases, at a time when rising borrowing costs are hurting the commercial real estate sector.

WeWork's filing for bankruptcy would mark a stunning reversal of fortune for the company that was privately valued at $47 billion in 2019 and a black spot for investor SoftBank that sunk billions.

The company has been in turmoil ever since its plans to go public in 2019 imploded following investors' skepticism over its business model of taking long-term leases and renting them for the short term and worries over its hefty losses.

WeWork's woes did not abate in subsequent years. It finally managed to go public in 2021 at a much-reduced valuation. Its major backer, Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, sunk tens of billions to prop up the startup, but the company has continued to lose money.

WeWork raised "substantial doubt" about its ability to continue operations in August, with numerous top executives, including CEO Sandeep Mathrani, departing this year.

(Reporting by Anirban Sen in New York, Manas Mishra and Manya Saini in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Anil D'Silva)