Son’s attendance at the Saudi Future Investment Initiative (FII) will give him an opportunity to network with possible investors for SoftBank’s second technology fund, sources told Reuters. Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi were major investors in SoftBank’s first $100 billion technology fund.
Riyadh’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) contributed $40 billion to the first SoftBank Vision Fund, and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala committed $15 billion. Mubadala and PIF reportedly showed interest in Softbank Vision 2, the sources told Reuters.
The conference comes a year after Son joined American officials and prominent business leaders in shunning the forum amid backlash surrounding the execution of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner are also planning to attend this year’s “Davos in the Desert” in Riyadh. Major media companies – Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg Media, The New York Times and Financial Times – have declined invitations, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that senior executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and BlackRock will attend this year’s conference, along with “more than 40 executives representing U.S. companies."
Vision Fund 2 was announced in July at $108 billion, but the reception by investors has been weak. The fund’s sole major commitment on the table is SoftBank’s $38 billion pledge.
An analysis by Reuters shows that SoftBank’s balance sheet is weak, making its initial pledge shaky.
The WeWork debacle has weakened the perception of Son’s investment chops, and a Vision Fund writedown is anticipated. Both SoftBank and the Vision Fund dumped over $10 billion into WeWork, some at a $47 billion valuation. When WeWork bailed on its IPO, valuation was only $10-12 billion.