SoftBank shares slump 9% after week of bad portfolio news

SoftBank shares fell as low as 5,057 yen, its biggest intraday drop since March 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - SoftBank Group extended a six-day slump with another drop of as much as 9 per cent in Tokyo on Monday (Dec 6) as key companies in its portfolio delivered further bad news.

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global began preparations to withdraw from United States stock exchanges on Thursday, shortly after the US Federal Trade Commission sued to block SoftBank's sale of Arm to Nvidia. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has made significant investments in both firms and is relying on completing the Arm transaction to secure a big windfall for his investment group, valuing the sale at 9 trillion yen (S$109 billion) at his most recent conference call to discuss earnings.

SoftBank shares fell as low as 5,057 yen, its biggest intraday drop since March last year. The stock is off more than 35 per cent this year, on track for its worst annual decline since 2006.

Didi fell more than 22 per cent on Friday, sending a warning to China investors who might have thought the worst of Beijing's crackdown on its Internet sector was over. Alibaba Group Holding, the biggest US-traded Chinese Internet firm and the most valuable company in SoftBank's portfolio, dropped more than 8 per cent in the wake of the Didi news.

"A look at Alibaba Group, Didi Global and edutech companies highlights how little visibility there is on regulatory change in China," wrote Redex Holdings' founder Kirk Boodry on Smartkarma. "On the aggregate, Vision Fund's public losses on China investments are US$3.2 billion (S$4.4 billion) so far."

Mr Son has previously addressed investor concern about SoftBank's dependence on Chinese tech firms by noting that the group was investing less in the country going forward and reducing the share of its portfolio committed to it. He has said SoftBank will wait for clarity on the regulatory situation.

The sale of Arm to Nvidia has faced regulator scrutiny in the Britain, China and, most recently and directly, in the US. Despite Mr Son and Nvidia chief Jensen Huang's repeated expressions of confidence about the deal, "markets have not built in any upside for the sale of Arm", Mr Boodry said. "Unfortunately, we think sale proceeds would have been earmarked for the share buyback and lack of a sales underscores the likelihood that share repurchases will be back loaded or delayed."

SoftBank announced a long-awaited one trillion yen buyback plan on Nov 8, triggering an upward swing in its share price, but that has since been entirely erased.

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