SoftBank’s Son hopes ‘winged unicorns’ can preserve crumbling tech empire


TOKYO (News) – SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) CEO Masayoshi Son on Monday pinned his hopes on a little group of “winged unicorns” to preserve the general overall performance of his $100 billion Vision Fund – even though he gave quantity of clues on which ones they would be.

FILE Image: Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp Chief Government Masayoshi Son bows his head right after his presentation at a info meeting in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. five, 2018. Info/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photograph

Announcing a history yearly loss for his tech conglomerate, and an $18 billion shortfall at the Saudi-backed Eyesight Fund, Son told an earnings presentation on Monday that tech unicorns seasoned plunged into the “valley of the coronavirus”.

But he explained a lesser variety of the tech corporations would make it and could sooner or later account for 90% of the price tag of the portfolio.

He showed a slide in which cartoon unicorns have been slipping down a hole as a lone winged unicorn flew to simple security on the other side.

The 62-12 months-prior businessman supplied handful of clues as to which of the fund’s 88 portfolio providers would sooner or later do properly.

Son described winners from the present disaster incorporated providers in foods delivery, on the net overall health care options, video streaming and on line procuring. In basic, the pandemic has been a disaster for the fund.

“If Son seasoned a extremely very good method of what these businesses are he would have singled them out,” described Amir Anvarzadeh, industry strategist at Asymmetric Advisors.

SoftBank has minimal publicity to regions like on the net instruction and streaming, with TikTok parent Bytedance a single noteworthy exception. In meals stuff provide, there has been demand from locked-down individuals but distributors also have faced disruptions, like receiving forced to shut down.

Uber (UBER.N) and identical portfolio organizations have been hammered by a slump in their core trip-hailing organization.

On the net healthcare specialist solutions, these sorts of as Ping An Well being care and Technological know-how (1833.HK), have noticed an upswing, while concerns continue to be about the broader software program of this sort of healthcare technologies.

Son’s thesis that a smaller sized quantity of hits can make up for other failures is normally utilized to early-stage economic investment, basically since there is much better probably upside.

But the Vision Fund has focused on late-stage startups, indicating there may possibly properly be a lot significantly less uplift.


Son’s organization enterprise empire is “becoming considerably isolated,” Mio Kato, analyst at LightStream Investigate wrote in a be conscious on the Smartkarma program.

Prolonged-time ally Jack Ma is exiting SoftBank’s board and Son, beneath tension from U.S. activist fund Elliott Management, has been compelled to market down his Alibaba stake to fund share buybacks.

SoftBank has also been not capable to protected added earnings from the Vision Fund’s large backers like Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund due to inadequate effectiveness.

With out added sources “Softbank cannot elevate its mark to industry location values by throwing far far more excellent earnings quickly right after damaging,” Kato wrote. The fund’s portfolio slipped underwater at March-finish.

On Monday, Son recurring his pledge of no bailouts for struggling elements of the portfolio, even although there are sources in reserve for “follow-on” investments.

A stark adjust of tone from Son was reserved for WeWork, which as not also lengthy ago as November he claimed was heading for a swift restoration.

The greatest portfolio providers “have a comparatively very good prospect of passing by way of the valley of the coronavirus,” Son claimed.

“The exception is WeWork.”

(This story refiles to deal with money letter in SoftBank in headline)

Reporting by Sam Nussey Enhancing by David Dolan and Jane Merriman