SoftBank mulls IPO of US$100b Vision Fund: Source

SoftBank might consider a direct listing rather than a traditional IPO, the source said.
SoftBank might consider a direct listing rather than a traditional IPO, the source said.PHOTO: AFP

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

The idea is early stage, said a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because it was private. If pursued, an IPO would give investors in the fund a way to cash out part or all of their stakes. The fund might consider a direct listing rather than a traditional IPO, the person said.

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, itt dwarfs other funds in size and invests more broadly than most venture funds, including in mature companies like chipmaker Nvidia Corp.

The Vision Fund has explored raising an additional US$15 billion to keep funding its ambitious investment activities. SoftBank is planning a second Vision Fund, and is also launching a Latin American fund in the mold of 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 Co, Abu Dhabi's strategic investment fund.

The Vision Fund owns a 16.3 per cent stake in Uber, which is set to list next week on the New York Stock Exchange. It also has a stake in Slack Technologies Inc, which like Uber and WeWork, is planning to go public.

 
 

SoftBank chief executive officer 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 this week.