SoftBank mulling over IPO for $136b Vision Fund

SAN FRANCISCO • Japan's SoftBank Group is considering an initial public offering (IPO) for its Vision Fund, the US$100 billion (S$136 billion) behemoth that has invested in technology companies ranging from ride-hailing pioneer Uber to chip designer ARM to co-working space firm WeWork, said a source familiar with the matter.

The idea is currently still in the early stages, said the source.

If pursued, an IPO would give investors in the fund a way to cash out part or all of their stakes.

SoftBank might also consider a direct listing for the fund rather than a traditional IPO, the source added.

A listing of any sort would be unusual for a venture firm, but the Vision Fund has operated outside of traditional venture parameters since its debut in 2016.

Now the world's largest technology investment fund, it dwarfs other funds in size and invests more broadly than most venture funds, including in mature companies like chipmaker Nvidia.

The Vision Fund has explored raising an additional US$15 billion to keep funding its ambitious investment activities.

  • 16.3%

  • Vision Fund's stake in Uber, which is set to list this week on the New York Stock Exchange.

SoftBank is planning a second Vision Fund, and is also launching a Latin American fund in the same mould as Vision Fund.

A representative for SoftBank declined to comment.

Discussions about a potential Vision Fund IPO were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

The Vision Fund's largest investor is Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which came under fire last year when the country's crown prince was accused of involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Other investors include Mubadala Investment, Abu Dhabi's strategic investment fund.

The Vision Fund owns a 16.3 per cent stake in Uber, which is set to list this week on the New York Stock Exchange.

It also has a stake in Slack Technologies, which, like Uber and WeWork, is planning to go public.

SoftBank founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son said in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview last year that he planned to raise US$100 billion every two to three years to create Vision Fund successors.

The fund is also planning to double its staff over the next 18 months to keep up with the pace of deal-making by SoftBank, the company's top deputies reportedly said at a conference in Los Angeles last week.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2019, with the headline 'SoftBank mulling over IPO for $136b Vision Fund'. Print Edition | Subscribe