SoftBank Sells Off Uber Stake, Cuts Vision Fund Staff

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son. Image credit: SoftBank

Japan’s SoftBank sells off Uber stake, plans to cut staff at flagship Vision Fund investing arm as market turmoil leads to steep quarterly losses

Japanese holding company SoftBank has sold off its entire stake in Uber and is to cut staff at its flagship Vision Fund investment group after reporting a record quarterly loss, as it seeks to limit the damage from a broad market rout in technology companies and start-ups.

Vision Fund reported a 2.93 trillion yen ($21.7bn, £18bn) loss for the April to June quarter, one of the biggest in its history.

That followed a record $26.2bn quarterly loss in May as rising interest rates and political turmoil took their toll on markets around the world.

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son. Image credit: SoftBank
SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son. Image credit: SoftBank

‘Defence’ mode

Some of SoftBank’s holdings in tech firms, such as South Korean e-commerce company Coupang and US food-delivery company DoorDash, have registered sharp declines this year.

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son said earlier this year the company would go into “defence” mode, with a strategy including selling off some of its holdings to improve its cash position, as well as scaling back investment activity.

The company said it sold its Uber holdings at some point between April and July at an average price of $41.47 per share, compared to an average cost of $34.50 per share.

It didn’t indicate the size of its stake in Uber or how much the sale had brought in.

Uber stake

SoftBank invested in Uber in 2018 and again in 2019, at one point becoming its biggest shareholder.

Last year it sold off about one-third of its Uber stake and has now offloaded its remaining holdings.

From April to July SoftBank said it had realized a $5.6bn gain from selling stakes in Uber as well as other companies including online real estate firm Opendoor, health care company Guardant and Chinese real estate and brokerage giant Beike.

In the June quarter Softbank sold Alibaba shares via a derivative called a forward contract, raising $10.49bn.

Staff cuts

Son made a fortune from an early investment in Alibaba more than two decades ago, as well as bets on start-ups such as ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing. Both of those companies have recently seen their shares plummet amidst a crackdown on tech giants by Chinese regulators and US market restrictions.

SoftBank has radically scaled back Vision Fund investments, and on Monday Son said Vision Fund 2 would be limited to managing its current portfolio.

He said Vision Fund would cut staff and seek cost reductions across the investment arm “with no sacred areas”.

Son told a quarterly earnings call on Monday that Vision Fund 2’s investments had been in a “bubble on valuations” and that it should have been “more selective”.