SOFTBANK’S BIG BET ON TECH IS PAYING BILLIONS
SoftBank’s massive Tech fund is pulling in big profits. Operating income for the Vision Fund soared 66% to nearly 398 billion yen ($3.8 billion) last quarter thanks to valuation gains on investments like Oyo, Slack (WORK) and Doordash, SoftBank (SFBTF) said in an earnings statement Wednesday.
Overall operating income fell 3.7% from a year earlier to 689 billion yen ($6.5 billion), dragged down in part by steep losses at Sprint (S). SoftBank owns more than 80% of the US carrier, which is preparing to merge with T-Mobile (TMUS) after the US Justice Department said the deal can move forward.
SoftBank’s net profit, however, quadrupled to 1.12 trillion yen ($10.6 billion), boosted by a one-off gain on the sale of some Alibaba (BABA) shares. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son launched the $100 billion Vision Fund in May 2017, with nearly half the money coming from the Saudi government. That fund has made big investments in dozens of startups and is the largest shareholder in Uber (UBER).
The Japanese Tech company announced last month that it expects to raise $108 billion to form another mega Tech fund, the Vision Fund 2. Son said Wednesday that the amount of investment in the fund could increase even more, adding that there are other potential investors in talks with the fund like Saudi Arabia — that are not included in the $108 billion figure.
The company doesn’t “have any issues” with investments from the Saudi Kingdom, Son said when asked about potential investment during an earnings presentation. He added that SoftBank “maintained good relations” with the Saudis, as well as Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund.
“When it comes to the specifics, we’re still in negotiations with them,” Son added. That’s the clearest sign yet that Son could once again work with Saudi Arabia. He began to distance himself from the kingdom last year after the disappearance and killing of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Son said last year that SoftBank wouldn’t take any more Saudi cash until the truth about Khashoggi’s murder was known.
Asked in May whether he would consider investment from Saudi Arabia for Vision Fund 2, Son said at the time that it was still too early to discuss specific details. Son was asked about Khashoggi on Wednesday. The killing “saddens me a lot,” he said, adding that “we’re not in a position to know all the details of the incident.”