Softbank Group disclosed the damage from bets on WeWork and Uber Technologies Inc.
The Japanese investment powerhouse on Wednesday reported about $6.5 billion quarterly operating loss after writing down the value of a string of investments. The company was charged with 497.7 billion yen ($4.6 billion) for shared-office startup WeWork.
"Unrealized loss on valuation of ¥ 537,932 million ($4.94 billion) from investments held at the second quarter-end was recorded due to a decrease in the fair values of investments including Uber Technologies, Inc. and The We Company (WeWork) and its three affiliates," Softbank said.
The losses call into question the billionaire founder Masayoshi Son’s deal-making approach just as he’s trying to raise an even larger successor to his $100 billion Vision Fund -- the world’s single largest pool of startup investments. The Saudi Arabia-backed Vision Fund reported a 970.3 billion yen loss in the quarter. SoftBank said the fund’s 88 investments were worth about $77.6 billion, a 9.8% gain in value relative to the cost at which it acquired the stakes. The company reported a gain in valuation for 25 companies, the same number that saw their worth decline.
On Wednesday, SoftBank’s chairman took some blame for his poor decisions. “There was a problem with my own judgment, that’s something I have to reflect on,” said Son.
“Time will take care of things,” Son said during an earnings briefing on Wednesday. WeWork’s new offices, with their low occupancy rates, are like apples that aren’t ready to be eaten. “We’ll make money once they’re allowed to ripen,” he said.
He said that turning around WeWork would be “simple” and that his team had a plan to right the struggling company. He said WeWork’s product -- good-looking office space that companies and entrepreneurs can rent short term -- was sound, noting SoftBank’s satisfaction with some of its WeWork offices in Japan.
Son also clarfied that SoftBank has a “no bailout” policy and there won’t be any other rescues among the companies it invests in. “WeWork is the last one,” he said, with free cashflow potential being the main criteria for evaluating future Vision Fund investments.
To transform the money-losing startup into a profitable company, Son said he’s ordered a halt new building developments, which tend to lose money for the first year or so before occupancy picks up. Next, he said he’s slashing expenses and getting rid of all unprofitable WeWork businesses. He added WeWork could generate $1 billion in annual profit in a few years and that the business in Japan is already making money.
Softbank's operating loss was 704.4 billion yen in the three months ended Sept. 30, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement. The company had a 705.7 billion yen profit a year earlier.
Late last month, WeWork secured a $9.5 billion rescue package from SoftBank, a deal that handed 80% of the company to the Japanese conglomerate. That’s on top of the more than $10 billion SoftBank and its Vision Fund have already invested into the co-working giant. The deal includes $5 billion in new financing and an acceleration of a $1.5 billion existing commitment. SoftBank will also offer to buy as much as $3 billion from existing shareholders.