Arman Tabatabai

There is a flurry of news out of SoftBank this morning, which announced its Fiscal Year 2019 (ending March 31, 2020) financial results overnight. It’s been a bad year for the Vision Fund, with huge losses at WeWork and Uber due to corporate incompetence, intrigue, and of course, COVID-19.

But buried a bit in the footnotes of its financial statements is a note that the first Vision Fund officially closed its doors to new investments way back in September 2019 — having exhausted all of its investible capital.

Per the notes, on September 12, 2019, the managing entity that owns the first Vision Fund determined that the fund had spent 85% of its capital, with the remainder reserved for follow-on investments and covering mandatory disbursements and fund management fees. That triggered the early ending of the fund, which was otherwise contractually allowed to invest until November 20, 2022.

To put that in perspective: the Vision Fund, which announced its first close on May 20, 2017, raised a total of $98.6 billion according to SoftBank’s documents.

Which means that the fund spent $83.8 billion on investments and fees in just about 845 days.

That’s just shy of $100m per day.

Every day.

(Including weekends.)

The company last year unveiled its plans to launch a second, even larger Vision Fund totaling $108 billion — but fundraising has been slow according to reports, and that’s not likely to change given some of the other top line numbers SoftBank unveiled today about its Vision.

The Vision Fund officially lost $17.4 billion in value according to SoftBank’s financials for the year ending this past March 31. The year before, SoftBank had registered a positive gain in the Vision Fund’s value of $12.8 billion, which means that the damage of this year’s performance has completely wiped out all gains the fund had made in the previous year.

But the real shock is the performance of the fund’s underlying portfolio companies. The Vision Fund currently has 88 active portfolio companies that have not exited. Of those, 19 investments saw a gain in combined value of $3.4 billion according to SoftBank, while 50 companies saw a decline in value aggregating to $20.7 billion in losses. 19 portfolio companies were left unchanged in value.

It’s not uncommon for early-stage funds to see huge loss ratios of this sort, but it is extraordinarily rare within the context of a late-stage fund. Considering that these valuations were almost certainly assessed before COVID-19 fully unleashed its damage on the global economy, having 57% of portfolio companies drop in value in just one year is insane, particularly given that most of them were headed toward some form of exit in the short-to-medium term given their stage.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bright lights in the portfolio, or some realized wins. But ultimately, a portfolio is only as good as its parts, and right now, those parts don’t look all that good.



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