SoftBank Group quarterly profit wiped out by Vision Fund losses

Profit for the overall group reached 2.6 billion yen for the quarter versus 438 billion yen a year prior, SoftBank said in a stock exchange filing. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - SoftBank Group Corp reported a near-total wipe out in quarterly profit on Wednesday (Feb 12), after the Japanese technology investor was whiplashed for a second consecutive quarter by losses at its US$100 billion (S$138.6 billion) Vision Fund.

The dire result is likely to deepen concern about founder Masayoshi Son's ability to secure funding for a second Vision Fund, and give more ammunition to activist investor Elliott Management which has recently emerged as a prominent shareholder.

The numbers are also the latest reminder of the inherent risk in Son's strategy of betting big on untested start-ups. The Vision Fund posted an operating loss of 225 billion yen (S$2.84 billion) for October-December compared to 176 billion yen profit in the same period a year earlier.

The fund, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and has single-handedly changed the face of tech investing, said it had invested US$74.6 billion in 88 companies as at December-end, at which time those investments were worth US$79.8 billion.

Profit for the overall group reached 2.6 billion yen for the quarter versus 438 billion yen a year prior, SoftBank said in a stock exchange filing. The figure included a 332 billion yen dilution gain related to the secondary listing of portfolio firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The result compared with the 345 billion yen average of three analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv. Analysts have said it is difficult to evaluate SoftBank's performance due to a lack of disclosure around Vision Fund's internal valuations.


Son's investing credentials took a hit in the August-September quarter when the Vision Fund recorded an US$8.9 billion operating loss following weakness at major bets such as office space-sharing firm WeWork.

Since then, a slew of portfolio companies - from hotel-booking platform Oyo to cloud robotics firm CloudMinds - have cut jobs and come under pressure to demonstrate the long-term viability of their business models.

The fund itself has also lost key employees.

Tuesday offered a bright spot when a US federal judge rejected an antitrust challenge to the proposed takeover of SoftBank's troubled US wireless subsidiary Sprint Corp by T-Mobile US Inc, sending SoftBank stock to its highest price in seven months.

The deal would extract the Japanese billionaire from the cash-draining US wireless business and remove about US$40 billion in net debt from his balance sheet. Sprint shares rose 78 per cent in US trading on Tuesday after a US court approved the deal, while SoftBank's stock surged as much as 13 per cent in Tokyo.

Nevertheless, SoftBank faces pressure to enhance shareholder value after sources told Reuters last week that US hedge fund Elliott Management had amassed a stake of almost US$3 billion in the conglomerate and is pushing for change including US$20 billion in stock buybacks.

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