When SoftBank’s notoriously bombastic CEO Masayoshi Son speaks, he often sounds more like he’s cutting a wrestling promo than fronting one of the world’s largest multinational holding companies.
But Son had plenty to boast about Wednesday. SoftBank reported annual profits of $46 billion, the largest in history for a Japanese company. The figure made the previous record, Toyota’s $22.9 billion haul in 2017-18, look like pocket change.
Not A Flash In The Pan, Claims Son
Just a year ago, SoftBank was in a tight spot after reporting its worst ever annual loss of $9 billion. Many tech unicorns, in Son’s words, fell “into the valley of the coronavirus,” and Softbank’s investments in office-sharing, ride-hailing, hoteliers, and travel services were all under immense pressure.
Shareholders and analysts began to grow skeptical of the mercurial CEO’s approach. But with his trademark tenacity, Son — who urges his investors to “listen to the Force” (yes, the one from Star Wars) — insisted some of Softbank’s unicorns would “fly over the valley” and prosper. For the record, he’s also compared himself to Jesus as someone misunderstood in his time. Turns out he was right (about the unicorns, at least):
- The red hot U.S. IPO market has turned many of SoftBank’s tech assets into windfalls. A $2.7 billion investment in South Korea’s Coupang, for example, became a $28 billion stake after the ecommerce company went public in March.
- And SoftBank’s two massive Saudi-backed tech-focused Vision Funds — which have raised $130 billion in total — reported a $58 billion gain in the value of their investments.
“We can’t be too proud since a series of coincidences led to this result. There were many failed investments such as WeWork, Greensill, and Katerra,” Son said during a Wednesday press conference, showing a smidgen of humility before promising more big numbers. “But once we have achieved it once, I’m not going to let this end as a one-off.”
More to Come: SoftBank is positioned for more big IPO wins, with major stakes in Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing, Chinese start-up Full Truck Alliance, and TikTok parent ByteDance. All are expected to go public in the near future.