/Softbank’s plans for second mega-fund hit by WeWork debacle

Softbank’s plans for second mega-fund hit by WeWork debacle

(Reuters) – Softbank Group founder and CEO Masayoshi Son is struggling to boost cash for a second huge know-how funding fund within the wake of the failed public providing of office-rental firm WeWork and sliding valuations of different main investments, based on two folks aware of the scenario.

FILE PHOTO: Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son attends a information convention in Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Son remains to be decided to go forward with Vision Fund 2 despite the fact that some lieutenants have urged a delay, the 2 folks with data of Softbank’s inside discussions instructed Reuters. But it’s prone to be far smaller, a minimum of on the outset, than the $108 billion that Softbank mentioned it had lined up when it introduced the fund in July, these folks mentioned.

Major traders have but to signal on, leaving a $38 billion pledge from publicly traded Softbank Group itself as the one giant dedication, based on the sources. And the dimensions of that pledge could itself be doubtful given a number of the current funding setbacks it has suffered and the shortage of obtainable money on its steadiness sheet, based on a Reuters evaluation.

Vision Fund and Softbank Group declined to touch upon the progress of Vision Fund 2.

The implosion within the valuation of WeWork and questions on its enterprise mannequin have dented Son’s fame as a savvy investor and level to an enormous writedown by the primary Vision Fund. Softbank and the Vision Fund collectively poured greater than $10 billion into the corporate, investing a few of that at a valuation of $47 billion in January. But WeWork not too long ago deserted plans for an preliminary public providing that may have pegged the corporate’s value at simply $10-12 billion.

If the second fund is available in nicely in need of Son’s objective or will get scrapped it would have broad implications for Silicon Valley enterprise capitalists, entrepreneurs and Wall Street financiers. 

The first Vision Fund, which raised $97 billion, upended the tech investing world with huge bets on fast-growing however unproven firms. It was larger than the combination quantity raised by the whole U.S. enterprise capital trade in 2018, giving Son an enormous affect over the start-up market.

Skeptics say the troubles at WeWork and the poor public market efficiency of money-losing firms corresponding to Uber Technologies Inc and Slack Technologies Inc will set off an enormous decline within the worth of quite a few so-called “unicorn” startups value greater than a billion .

“The radiation is spreading everywhere,” mentioned Scott Galloway, an writer and one-time entrepreneur who teaches at New York University and who has been intently following the WeWork turmoil.

To ensure, there are investments within the 80-plus firms Vision Fund has financed that look like paying off shortly. Delivery firm DoorDash, for one, has rocketed in worth, a minimum of on paper, from $1.four billion final March to $12.6 billion in May. Softbank, which owns a few third of the Vision Fund, in July reported a 62% return on its funding, together with administration and efficiency charges.

Son additionally has a monitor file of huge scores: the $20 million he put into China’s Alibaba Group Holdings in 2000 is now value greater than $100 billion, for instance. Most analysts charge Softbank Group a purchase and say it nonetheless has borrowing capability, and its majority-owned telecom and web media unit throws off wholesome income.


Back in July, Softbank mentioned a gaggle of firms, together with know-how behemoths Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp, in addition to a slew of Japanese banks, and Britain’s Standard Chartered Plc would contribute to Vision Fund 2. But it’s unclear how agency these commitments are, and not one of the company traders have a monitor file of creating multi-billion-dollar commitments to an outdoor enterprise fund.

Microsoft, Apple and Standard Chartered declined to remark.

The Japanese establishments are largely contributing solely small quantities, sources aware of the matter mentioned. At least one monetary investor is planning to make loans to the fund reasonably than contribute money.

Japanese funding financial institution Nomura Holdings Inc, which was lead underwriter for the IPO of SoftBank’s telecom unit, has determined to not put cash into the brand new fund, based on a supply aware of its plans. Nomura declined to remark. 

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which contributed $45 billion to the primary Vision Fund, doesn’t have giant quantities of recent money to speculate till it receives cost from a pending asset sale or proceeds from the deliberate public providing of the oil agency Aramco, based on folks aware of its funds. The Aramco providing is lengthy delayed and there’s no assure it would go forward even subsequent yr.

The United Arab Emirates’ Mubadala fund nonetheless intends to spend money on Vision Fund 2 however is searching for extra say within the investments, a supply aware of the discussions mentioned.

PIF and Mubadala declined to remark.


The worsening turmoil at WeWork will proceed to be a pressure on Softbank and the primary fund. The value of WeWork bonds has sunk, its credit score rankings have been slashed and massive cutbacks are anticipated on the firm, together with the opportunity of hundreds of layoffs. Some actual property traders and analysts say that with out additional funding from Son or his entities, it will likely be tough to stabilize given the dimensions of its future monetary commitments.

That is simply one of many calls on Softbank’s cash. Some of the traders within the first Vision Fund obtain curiosity funds of seven% yearly on their stakes, an uncommon construction that creates an ongoing want for money. Some of that has come from sale of stakes in Indian e-commerce agency Flipkart and publicly traded chipmaker Nvidia Corp, however Softbank has additionally borrowed cash to fund payouts to traders.

Softbank additionally faces the danger deal to merge its money-losing U.S. telecom provider Sprint Corp with T-Mobile US Inc could possibly be blocked by an antitrust lawsuit from U.S. states. If that occurs, it would depart Softbank with an costly legal responsibility, analysts say.

Softbank’s inventory has fallen 13% over the previous month and is now buying and selling at its lowest degree since January. Softbank’s working money stream additionally turned unfavorable final quarter and it might battle to boost tens of billions of in money, a Reuters evaluation of its steadiness sheet reveals.

Softbank doesn’t have important money readily available to finance the brand new fund. As of June 30, it had $27.41 billion of money and money equivalents on its steadiness sheet. However, this and different present belongings was greater than matched by near-term liabilities.

The public choices in current months have been an enormous sore. Since they listed, shares in ride-hailing group Uber are down 34 p.c and software program firm Slack’s inventory has misplaced four p.c, although it’s down 41 p.c from its excessive in June. The worth of different ride-sharing and self-driving know-how firms may be in query as sentiment in that sector cools.

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Together with the decline within the worth of WeWork, these outcomes are anticipated to pull down the Vision Fund’s returns, although it’s tough to get a grip on exact numbers. Softbank Group stories total Vision Fund efficiency based mostly on a wide range of inside valuation metrics, but it surely doesn’t publicly disclose the numbers on particular person firms.

Son’s financing plans for the second Vision Fund are based mostly on a gentle stream of IPOs of present Vision Fund firms. But with the urge for food for IPOs of unprofitable firms waning and issues a few attainable world recession constructing, the timing isn’t the most effective.

“I think that it’s incredibly likely that they’ll postpone their plans for … fundraising efforts around Vision Fund 2,” mentioned Andrea Lamari Walne, a Silicon Valley-based associate at Manhattan Venture Partners, which facilitates secondary transactions.

Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bangalore, Sam Nussey and Takashi Umekawain in Tokyo, Tom Bergin in London, Saeed Azhar in Dubai, Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi, Jane Lanhee Lee in San Francisco and Timothy McLaughlin in Boston; Writing by Jonathan Weber; Editing by Martin Howell and Edward Tobin

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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