Masayoshi Son Says SoftBank is Ready for Business Again

(Photo Credit: Miki Yoshihito/Unsplash)
(Photo Credit: Miki Yoshihito/Unsplash)

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Masa didn’t hear no bell.

After years of unloading billions of dollars worth of assets in its sinking portfolio, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son told shareholders on Wednesday that the group is preparing a “counteroffensive,” specifically with bullish investments in artificial intelligence.

A Morale Booster

In the past three years, SoftBank has hit major headwinds: its Vision Fund — a $100 billion venture capital program launched in 2017 with nearly half of it backed by Saudi Arabia — yielded dismal results and many assets were either unloaded or saw their values dramatically written down. SoftBank recently waved the white flag on many of its holdings, selling off partial or full stakes in companies like Uber, Alibaba, and DoorDash to conserve cash for a better investing environment, which Son seems to believe is approaching.

To rally the troops, Son shared — arguably overshared – how tortured he was by the failures. He described a recent emotional breakdown that had him questioning his success as an entrepreneur, somewhat unusual for a guy worth more than $25 billion. His passion, reignited by having spent months working on 630 new ChatGPT-aided ideas for inventions, is now fueling him to be “an architect for the future of humanity.”

Okay, it’s not surprising that a billionaire investor whose recent ideas have flopped is turning to AI. But Masa already has a few AI heavy hitters in his portfolio:

  • Despite the Vision Fund’s less-than-stellar track record, Son still has hope for it and alluded to a handful of investments that excited him. He didn’t identify those specific ventures, but he did tout AI, calling OpenAI CEO Sam Altman “one of the key people on Earth,” and said generative AI will be an integral part of society but should be regulated as it risks “scarier consequences than the atomic bomb.”
  • AI tech stocks have experienced a massive surge recently led by NVIDIA, the current king of the industry. Last month, the chip maker’s stock surged 24% in a single day, sending ripples throughout the rest of the sector. Arm — SoftBank’s AI division that it once tried selling to NVIDIA — gained some momentum as well on the back of the news of its IPO, which is set to hit US exchanges sometime this year.

So Sue Me: Shifting from its economic ambitions, it looks like SoftBank could also be in a good spot concerning its legal troubles. Here’s the gist of it — Credit Suisse lent $440 million in client funds to finance firm Greensill Capital, which then lent it to construction company Katerra, which is backed by SoftBank. Both Katerra and Greensill collapsed, and now Credit Suisse wants its money back from SoftBank. The only problem is Credit Suisse also collapsed and has since been acquired by UBS, and SoftBank is a client of UBS. There’s a chance the case might not live much longer.