Masayoshi Son’s eternal optimism


softbank son

THERE’S a US$60bil (RM264bil) reason why SoftBank Group Corp founder Masayoshi Son (pic) might feel a little down.

His company has shed more market value in the past year than during any 12-month period over the past two decades, while his portfolio of private and public companies faces continued turmoil.

And yet, Son remains unfailingly optimistic.

“I have no doubt at all. No matter what changes take place, I have never been doubtful,” Son told shareholders Friday of his belief in the information revolution that forms the underlying thesis for his investment strategy.

From declining share prices to failed merger deals, the 64-year-old found an upside to almost every trouble his conglomerate has faced over the past year.

And he needs to. His handful of investment vehicles, lead by the SoftBank Vision Fund, has a stake in more than 470 companies. Few of them have delivered a home run, but they will. Maybe.

With debt of almost US$300bil (RM1.32 trillion) and a weakening yen, Son needs to steady himself for a few years until he can realise the gains he’s so confident will eventually come.

A major setback in paying down that debt was SoftBank’s failed US$40bil (RM176bil) sale of chip company Arm Ltd to Nvidia Corp. Regulators around the world worried it would be too powerful a business and rejected the merger. Yet Son even put a positive spin on that failure, claiming it was a good thing that he could hold onto the British company longer.

For one thing, to its lenders, SoftBank itself is too big to fail – a classic example of the adage that if you owe the bank US$100 (RM440) that’s your problem, but if you owe the bank US$300bil (RM1.32 trillion), that’s the bank’s problem.

Money is still essentially free in Japan. And for now, banks will still be lining up to enable SoftBank to roll over its obligations.

For wary investors, Son has a message: If you can’t stand the thrills, you’re free to disembark the ride. — Bloomberg

Tim Culpan and Gearoid Reidy write for Bloomberg. The views expressed here are the writers’ own.

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