SoftBank said to raise $15b more for its massive Vision Fund

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

For SoftBank Group Corp., $100 billion isn’t enough. The Japanese conglomerate, which has reshaped the technology startup landscape with its Saudi-backed Vision Fund, is in talks with investors to add as much as $15 billion more to its already-massive fund, said people familiar with the discussions.

In about two years, the Vision Fund has invested more than $70 billion in tech companies. SoftBank wants to keep up its deal spree, while leaving enough assets in reserve to continue buying shares in companies it currently backs. Later, it plans to undergo an even more ambitious effort to assemble a second Vision Fund, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

SoftBank has weighed a variety of ways to pump more cash into the original Vision Fund. Proposals include raising more capital, persuading state-backed investors in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to waive their rights to debt repayments or taking out more bank loans, said the people. Terms of the fundraising have yet to be finalized, and there’s no certainty a deal will come together, one of the people said.

Spokesmen for the Vision Fund and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co. declined to comment. Representatives for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Vision Fund has been writing huge checks at a rapid rate since raising the bulk of the fund in 2017. SoftBank has signed dozens of deals with startups involved in cancer detection, construction, dog walking, indoor farming, ride-hailing, satellites and window glass. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has said he intends to raise a new $100 billion fund every two or three years.

For a while, SoftBank appeared to have a long-term partner in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince and chairman of the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, told Bloomberg in October that he would pledge another $45 billion to the next Vision Fund. Then the crown prince came under fire over accusations that he ordered the assassination of a Washington Post journalist. He denied prior knowledge and blamed the killing on Saudi security operatives who had gone rogue.

Amid international scrutiny of Prince Mohammed, the relationship with SoftBank and its biggest Middle Eastern investors showed signs of fraying. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that representatives of the Saudi and Abu Dhabi funds voiced concerns over the high prices the Vision Fund was paying for tech stocks.

Son had been holding preliminary discussions with investors last year about backing a second fund that could be established as soon as this year. The new fund would likely draw a wider pool of financiers.

SoftBank is seemingly in a more favorable negotiating position now. The stock is up about 50 percent this year. Although the debut of the second fund isn’t expected imminently, executives from SoftBank have been meeting over recent months with a range of investors — some of whom backed the original Vision Fund and others who didn’t — with attempts to nail down commitments, people familiar with the talks now say.

One stopgap to keep the money flowing came last month, when the Vision Fund secured a $3 billion loan from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other banks. SoftBank executives have since renewed talks with banks to potentially take on even more debt for the Vision Fund, said people familiar with the discussions.

Another idea currently under consideration would enable the fund to reinvest some of the $5.6 billion profit it has made from investments in Nvidia Corp. and Flipkart, said the people. Or they might wait until Uber Technologies Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc. go public in the coming months and include a piece of those profits, one of the people said. Either scenario would require investors to approve changes to their contracts, which is no small feat.

A third scenario relies predominantly on the fund’s backers in the Middle East. SoftBank is asking investors to consider giving up the $3 billion a year they demanded in exchange for $40.6 billion in a preferred equity loan to the fund, the people said. Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi hold the vast majority of that stock.

Bloomberg

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.