SoftBank Group Corp.’s founder Masayoshi Son said he has $80 billion (¥8.3 trillion) in cash to buy back more shares and continue investing in both private and public companies.
"If our shares drop down, I will buy back more shares more aggressively,” the chief executive officer said at the New York Times DealBook conference Tuesday. "We have $80 billion in cash at hand.”
After a record fall in its share price in March, SoftBank unveiled plans to offload ¥4.5 trillion in assets and buy back ¥2.5 trillion of its own stock. The idea of going private through a buyout has been discussed within SoftBank for at least five years, but Son declined to comment on whether he would take his company off the stock market.
Son also defended his recent investment in public equities. SoftBank has poured about $20 billion into tech stocks and derivatives through a unit in which the billionaire personally holds a one-third stake. A ¥292 billion derivative loss in the September quarter helped all but wipe out gains it made in the first quarter.
"Who said I should not invest in public companies if I believe they will become successful companies in the AI revolution?” he said.
Son has repeatedly affirmed his conviction that a global digital transformation and the advent of artificial intelligence — which both accelerated during the pandemic — will help his investments. The conglomerate reported a record ¥784.4 billion profit in its Vision Fund business for the three months ended Sept. 30, boosted by the performance of a Chinese AI startup.
Son also praised Adam Neumann, the founder of WeWork. SoftBank is one of the major backers of WeWork, and bailed out the coworking startup last year alongside an acrimonious fallout with Neumann.
"He’s a smart guy, he’s an aggressive guy,” said Son. "He’s a great leader, but he makes some mistakes.”
SoftBank recently paid Neumann only a portion of the $185 million fee that was part of his controversial exit package as WeWork CEO.
Meanwhile, SoftBank is among existing investors in talks to lead a $120 million fundraising for Brazilian e-commerce company MadeiraMadeira in a transaction that will vault the firm to so-called unicorn status, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The funding round could be finalized by year-end and terms could still change, said the person, who requested anonymity because the talks are private. A unicorn is a startup with a valuation of more than $1 billion.
SoftBank led a $110 million funding round for the startup last year. MadeiraMadeira, founded in 2009 and based in Curitiba, Brazil, sells its own products and those of other merchants. Other investors include Light Street Capital and Flybridge Capital Partners.
SoftBank and MadeiraMadeira representatives declined to comment.
SoftBank expects MadeiraMadeira to lead the digital transformation of Brazil’s growing home-goods segment, Paulo Passoni, managing investment partner of SoftBank Group International’s Latin America fund, said last year.
The conglomerate said in February that it will continue to invest in Latin America, focusing on industries including e-commerce, health care and fintech. Two managing partners who helped lead the firm’s fund dedicated to bets on the region exited this year.
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