SoftBank Struggles To Raise Vision Funds

Following WeWork’s botched initial public offering, Japan’s SoftBank is seeking money for another big tech investment despite the falling valuations of its other big holdings, Reuters reported on Thursday (Oct. 3).

Softbank’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son wants to push forward with Vision Fund 2 despite calls for a postponement, sources told Reuters.

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, the sources told the news outlet.

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.

SoftBank, founded in 1981, started out publishing computer and technology magazines, among other endeavors. The company also eventually went into internet technology and offerings — SoftBank helped build Yahoo Japan, for instance — and went public in 1994, becoming a holding company in 1999. A $20 million investment in China-based Alibaba followed at the turn of the century — an investment that reportedly was worth some $60 billion when Alibaba went public in 2014.

SoftBank often invests in unprofitable ventures, of course. The strategy behind that is centered around “significant pain points” and companies and technology that can address them. That idea — of whether the “business makes sense” — reportedly guides investments, including from the Vision Fund, as much or as more than immediate concerns about profitability.

The fund’s other recent investments include $1 billion to Latin American delivery app Rappi, $4.5 billion to Southeast Asia’s Grab and Germany’s startup GetYourGuide. Softbank also invested heavily in Uber and gave $1 billion to the Uber Technologies’ Advanced Technologies Group or Uber ATG. .