SoftBank back to black with US$12b profit after record losses

The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is seen at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo, June 30, 2016. — Reuters pic
The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is seen at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo, June 30, 2016. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Aug 11 — SoftBank Group today reported a US$12 billion (RM50.3 billion) quarterly net profit to June, recovering from eye-watering losses as tech stocks rally and the firm sheds assets to shore up its finances.

The results will be a relief for chief Masayoshi Son, who has faced an increasing drumbeat of criticism after recent record losses for the firm.

Son transformed what began as a telecoms company into an investment and tech behemoth with stakes in some of Silicon Valley’s hottest start-ups through its US$100 billion Vision Fund.

But he has battled opposition to his strategy of pouring money into start-ups — including troubled office-sharing firm WeWork — which some analysts say are overvalued and lack clear profit models.

The 11.9 per cent rise in net profit to ¥1.26 trillion puts SoftBank back in the black after a turbulent financial year that saw its investment woes magnified by the coronavirus pandemic and plunges in global stock markets.

Son has insisted that his strategy is sound, and that SoftBank’s portfolio is broad enough to weather the storm, but acknowledged the challenges when the firm reported an eye-watering US$8.9 billion annual net loss in May, hit by the WeWork debacle and stock crashes.

The results come after SoftBank launched an aggressive plan to sell up to US$41 billion in assets to finance a stock buy-back, after Son said shares were undervalued.

The fundraising was also intended to reduce the firm’s debts and increase cash reserves.

Paired with the recent recovery in tech stock prices, the strategy appears to be paying off, analysts said.

“SoftBank has achieved a V-shape recovery,” said Tomoaki Kawasaki, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities.

Kawasaki told AFP that investor sentiment had been boosted by the firm’s decision to sell assets and buy back shares.

“But we still need to carefully watch SoftBank’s performance, which is heavily subject to stock markets,” he added.

SoftBank shares closed down 2.45 per cent to ¥6,361 shortly before the results were announced, up significantly from their March low of ¥2,687.

‘Numerous uncertainties’

The firm also reported ¥983 billion in investment gains for the quarter to June, including profit from its Vision Fund.

But it warned that the pandemic continued to cause uncertainty, bolstering its investments in e-commerce and food delivery firms, but hammering those in the hotel and hospitality sectors.

It said it would not offer a forecast “due to numerous uncertainties affecting earnings.”

Son has struggled to interest investors in a second round of the Vision Fund as he deals with the woes of some of his most high-profile investments, notably WeWork.

Once hailed as a dazzling unicorn valued at US$47 billion, the office-sharing start-up has suffered a stunning fall from grace.

Son stood by his investment, even upping his stake, but things began to unravel last year as WeWork haemorrhaged cash and cancelled its share offering, with founder Adam Neumann pushed out.

SoftBank this year scrapped a plan to buy up to US$3 billion WeWork shares as part of a restructuring programme, and the start-up is now suing for alleged breach of contract. — AFP

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