SoftBank Posts $37 Billion Vision Fund Profit, Eyes Further IPOs

SoftBank
FILE PHOTO: SoftBank Corp’s logo is pictured at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, February 4, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO ⸺ SoftBank Group Corp on Wednesday reported a 4.027 trillion yen ($36.99 billion) fourth-quarter profit at its Vision Fund unit after booking a gain on investment Coupang, underscoring its recovery a year after a record loss.

“It’s clearly validation of Masa’s thesis,” Navneet Govil, Vision Fund’s chief financial officer, told Reuters in an interview, referring to Masayoshi Son, the company founder and CEO.

Group net profit was 4.99 trillion yen in the year ended March. That compares with a 962 billion yen loss a year earlier after teetering tech bets depressed the value of its portfolio.

Market enthusiasm for tech stocks drove the public listing of SoftBank-backed e-commerce firm Coupang and used-car trading platform Auto1 Group and the rising share price of ride-hailing firm Uber during the quarter.

Investors have expressed concern over whether the Vision Fund can replicate the fourth-quarter performance. 

Yet-to-list portfolio companies like ride-hailing firm Didi, TikTok owner Bytedance and truck service platform Full Truck Alliance have strong revenue growth, healthy market share and a clear path to profitability, Govil said. 

These companies are “sizeable investments with significant value to be unlocked,” said Govil. 

Much of Vision Fund’s gain is on paper with the value of the portfolio locked up in the stock market amid concern over frothy valuations and a boom in special purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs) which has drawn regulatory scrutiny.

The total fair value of the first $100 billion Vision Fund and the smaller second fund was $154 billion at the end of March, with SoftBank distributing $22.3 billion to limited partners.

SoftBank has hiked its committed capital in the second fund to $30 billion from $10 billion, reflecting the breadth of investment opportunities, Govil said.

Two of SoftBank’s highest-profile bets, space sharing firm WeWork and ride-hailing firm Grab, have outlined plans to list via SPAC mergers, with Vision Fund reportedly in talks to use its own such vehicle to list portfolio company Mapbox. 

The Grab deal offers further upside for the Vision Fund should the transaction go through, Govil said. 

The group’s trading arm, SB Northstar, is expanding dealmaking this week leading a $1 billion investment in acquisitive e-commerce firm THG.

SB Northstar and the broader group recorded a $233 billion loss on investments in listed stocks and derivatives as efforts to work cash reserves outside the Vision Fund sputter.

SoftBank has exhausted much of the $2.5 trillion buyback programme launched last year, with shares hitting two-decade highs in March before slipping in line with weakness in U.S. tech stocks.

($1 = 108.8600 yen)

Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Kim Coghill; Reuters

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