The past two years have sent Mr. Son on a new roller coaster ride. The pandemic initially drove SoftBank’s investments in big-name tech companies into the ground, sent them soaring, and then crashed them again. Companies like Coupang, a Korean e-commerce business, and DoorDash, a food-delivery app, had highflying initial offerings, but have since dropped sharply.
Additionally, China’s crackdown on its tech sector has pummeled the value of SoftBank’s large portfolio of Chinese companies. In response, SoftBank has quietly sold off a large share of its holdings in Alibaba. An early investment of $20 million in the Chinese e-commerce giant was so successful that it once accounted for almost 60 percent of SoftBank’s net asset value.
At its high point last year, Mr. Son’s Vision Funds — the original Vision Fund, the second, smaller Vision Fund 2, and a Latin American fund that was recently added to the portfolio — had grown by more than 7 trillion yen ($52 billion). But by the end of June, the funds had given up almost all of the gains they had made over their entire history. Since March, the value of the Vision Funds’ publicly traded stocks fell by 31 percent, compared with 22 percent for the Nasdaq overall, Mr. Son said.
SoftBank has also been hurt by the falling value of the yen over the past year, which has driven up the cost of the company’s dollar-denominated debt.
With recent losses and the new investment direction the company will likely need to make layoffs, Mr. Son said, adding that “Vision Fund head counts may need to be reduced dramatically.”
Mr. Son said the company was also considering selling the asset manager Fortress Investment Group, which it purchased for over $3 billion in 2017.
Following the earnings report, SoftBank announced it would buy back up to 400 billion yen ($3 billion) of its shares. The announcement follows a decision last November to buy back 1 trillion yen of stock. SoftBank’s shares rose slightly on Monday in Tokyo. They are down more than 16 percent over the past 12 months, roughly the same as the Nasdaq index.