SoftBank posts record $32 billion loss at its Vision Fund tech investment arm

SoftBank has faced headwinds in its Vision Fund investment division due to a fall in technology company valuations amid rising interest rates.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SoftBank recorded a record loss for its Vision Fund as a recent rally in tech stocks has done little to help another difficult year for its flagship investment unit.

The Japanese giant’s Vision Fund segment posted a 4.3 trillion Japanese yen ($32 billion) loss for its fiscal year ending Mar. 31 versus a 2.55 trillion yen loss in the same period a year before.

SoftBank posted an overall loss on investments at its Vision Funds of 5.28 trillion Japanese yen versus 3.43 trillion yen a year before. Despite a rally this year in tech stocks, they are broadly still lower than a year ago. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 index declined about 11% during SoftBank’s fiscal year.

Overall, SoftBank posted a net loss of 970.14 billion yen for the fiscal year, narrower than the 1.7 trillion loss in the same period a year before.

Despite gains from exiting investments in high-profile companies like ride-hailing firm Uber, SoftBank said that it logged losses in areas including the share prices of Chinese artificial intelligence firm SenseTime and Indonesian ride-hailing and e-commerce company GoTo.

Over the past year, SoftBank has been exiting some of its highest-profile investments to raise cash. It narrowed its overall losses through sales of shares in T-Mobile and Alibaba. It continues to offload some of its shares in the latter company via a derivative called a forward contract, after Son made his fortune with an early investment in Alibaba more than two decades ago. 

In August, it said it had sold its remaining stake in U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber.

The companies that SoftBank has invested in are well capitalized, according to the Japanese giant’s Chief Financial Officer Yoshimitsu Goto. He said SoftBank has a number of companies ready to go public, which are valued at a combined $37 billion. He did not name these companies.

The brainchild of founder Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s Vision Fund comprises Vision Fund 1 and Vision Fund 2 and invests in high growth stocks, which have faced headwinds from rising interest rates globally causing investors to sell out of riskier equities such as tech.

Amid mounting losses, Son’s key ally and top SoftBank executive Rajeev Misra stepped back from some of his roles at the company. Misra was instrumental in the early days of the Vision Fund, which was launched in 2017.

‘Defense’ mode

Around a year ago, Son said SoftBank would go into “defense” mode amid the headwinds and become more disciplined with its investments.

That tactic appeared to be working in SoftBank’s fiscal fourth quarter from January to March, helped by the rally in tech stocks. SoftBank’s Vision Funds recorded investment losses 236.8 billion yen in the period, versus 730.3 billion yen in the quarter before.

SoftBank said it made $3.14 billion in new or follow-on investments in its fiscal year, down from $44.26 billion in the same period of a year prior.

During a press conference on Thursday, Goto said that it has been an “unstable” year marked by geopolitical risks and financial system instability, citing the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and issues at Credit Suisse.

“In the first quarter, we may be able to see some signs of improvement, however we are not expecting a fundamental resolution … for those issues,” Goto said.

He nevertheless said that artificial intelligence technology is making “dramatic progress” with the company, weighing up whether to stay in defense mode.

“With those situations should we just keep in defense or should we keep a balance with offense?” Goto asked.

Arm IPO in focus

Now investors are looking toward the initial public offering of British semiconductor firm Arm, which is owned by SoftBank, as a way to shore up the Japanese firm’s balance sheet and perhaps give it more money to make new investments. Last month, Arm filed confidentially for a listing in the U.S. Arm previously said it would list in the U.S. over the U.K., dealing a blow to the London stock exchange.

SoftBank agreed to acquire Arm in 2016. Goto said that he was unable to discuss Arm at length due to the confidential filing in the U.S., but said preparation for the IPO is “going smoothly.”

Arm posted sales of 381.7 billion yen in the fiscal year, up more than 27% year-on-year. The company’s pre-tax income rose 18% year-on-year to 48.6 billion yen.

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