SoftBank Vision Fund loses $18B as coronavirus hits ‘unicorns’

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The coronavirus has claimed some of SoftBank’s “unicorns” as casualties — and its billionaire CEO used a fantasy-driven slide presentation to illustrate the problem.

The Japanese investment giant reported an $18 billion loss for its Vision Fund Monday after its buzzy “unicorn” tech startups like Uber and WeWork fell into what CEO Masayoshi Son called “the valley of the coronavirus.”

But Son predicted that some of his prized unicorns will make it to the other side of the “unprecedented” crisis even though it has caused their sales to drop and hurt their cash flow. He illustrated his point with an image of a lone winged unicorn jumping over a hole with two horned horses at the bottom.

“I believe some of them will fly over the valley,” Son said during a Monday earnings presentation.

Hits to the Vision Fund’s stakes in ride-hailing giant Uber and troubled office-sharing startup WeWork accounted for roughly $9.7 billion of its losses for the fiscal year that ended March 31.

Another $7.5 billion was linked to other firms in the Vision Fund portfolio, which includes DoorDash, Slack and TikTok parent ByteDance. All told, the value of the fund’s $75 billion worth of investments in 88 companies has dropped to $69.6 billion, SoftBank said.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son argued that some "unicorn" companies in which his firm has invested will make it through the coronavirus crisis.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son argued that some “unicorn” companies in which his firm has invested will make it through the coronavirus crisis.SoftBank

SoftBank warned of the bleeding earlier this month after it backed away from a $3 billion tender offer to rescue WeWork, a move that drew a lawsuit from WeWork’s board. SoftBank also booked an impairment loss on the value of its WeWork investment outside of the Vision Fund.

SoftBank has also taken a beating from its stake in Uber, which posted a $3 billion loss in the first quarter and laid off some 3,700 employees as the pandemic caused its core ride-hailing business to plunge more than 80 percent.

SoftBank plans to raise 1.25 trillion yen (about $11.6 billion) against its investment in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, whose CEO Jack Ma is leaving SoftBank’s board. American hedge fund Elliott Management has been pressuring SoftBank to buy back shares and improve corporate governance.

With Post wires

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