Why have one $100 billion mega tech fund, when you can have two?
SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son announced Thursday that he is preparing to establish a second Vision Fund. The first version of the investment fund was backed by Saudi Arabia and poured billions into companies like Uber, WeWork and Slack.
“This is the first time that we are officially announcing that we are preparing for the establishment of SoftBank Vision Fund 2,” Son said at the company’s earnings presentation.
The size and structuring of the new fund hasn’t been decided yet, he said, but “roughly speaking we’d like a similar size to Vision Fund 1.”
Son said many of the investors that backed the first Vision Fund are interested in taking part. Nearly half the money for that fund came from the Saudi government. Other investors included Apple (AAPL), Qualcomm (QCOM), Foxconn, Sharp (SHCAY) and Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates.
The founder of the Japanese tech group said last year that SoftBank wouldn’t take any more Saudi cash until the truth about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was known.
Amid a mounting global backlash, Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi’s killing at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey was premeditated, but it maintained that neither Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nor King Salman knew of the operation to target him.
Asked on Thursday whether he would consider another investment from Saudi Arabia for Vision Fund 2, Son said it was still too early to discuss specific details.
One funding option is for SoftBank to provide 100% of the money to get the new Vision Fund up and running quickly, “and invite other investors later,” he added.
The first mega tech fund has already starting paying off for SoftBank. Operating profit for the Vision Fund and a related fund soared more than 300% to 1.26 trillion yen ($11.4 billion) for the fiscal year ended in March, accounting for more than half of the group’s earnings.
SoftBank said the windfall was driven by the sale of a stake in Indian e-commerce company FlipKart to Walmart (WMT), and the rising value of its portfolio.
Two recipients of Vision Fund money — Guardant Health (GH) and Ping An Good Doctor — went public last year. Three more — Uber, WeWork and Slack — are planning initial public offerings this year.
Uber will be a big test for Son’s deal-making prowess — the ride-hailing company holds its highly anticipated IPO on Friday.
SoftBank said Thursday that the value of its $7 billion investment in Uber has already gone up by 418 billion yen ($3.8 billion). The Vision Fund is the company’s largest shareholder with a 16.3% stake.
The splashy investments and bumper returns have fueled reports that SoftBank is considering an IPO for its big tech fund.
Son acknowledged “rumors” of a Vision Fund IPO, but declined to comment on the matter.