For the past decade, SoftBank and its founder, Masayoshi Son, grabbed headlines mainly for the Japanese conglomerate’s eye-popping investments, becoming a fixture in the American technology scene by spending freely on start-ups and fundamentally reshaping how such companies had been funded.
There was the world’s largest tech investment fund. The billions of dollars pumped into WeWork, the co-working giant. And Mr. Son’s splashy purchase of one of Silicon Valley’s priciest homes.
Now, the bad news is piling up.
This week, SoftBank’s planned $40 billion sale of Arm, a chip designer, to Nvidia, the Silicon Valley chip maker, fell apart because of regulatory setbacks. Shares in a handful of big tech companies that SoftBank owns stakes in, from the Chinese internet giant Alibaba to DoorDash, the food delivery service, have plunged in recent months amid a wider sell-off in high-growth tech stocks. And one of Mr. Son’s key deputies, Marcelo Claure, left the firm in January after a bitter pay dispute — the latest senior executive to depart the firm in the past year.
The slump in SoftBank’s fortunes was reflected in its latest earnings report. The firm said that its quarterly earnings fell 97 percent from a year ago, although it managed to eke out a small profit of $251 million during the three months that ended on Dec. 31. SoftBank’s shares, which trade publicly in Tokyo, stayed relatively flat this week, although they are already down by more than half in the past 12 months, as investors grow increasingly wary of SoftBank’s big bets that haven’t paid off.
he purchased an estate in Woodside, Calif., for $117 million — one of Silicon Valley’s most expensive homes. He then bought a majority stake in the mobile carrier Sprint in 2013 for roughly $22 billion, installing Mr. Claure as chief executive the next year. Sprint later merged with T-Mobile.
that country’s crackdown on its tech giants. SoftBank owns stakes in both companies, which trade on U.S. exchanges although Didi plans to move its listing to Hong Kong. While SoftBank invested far below the initial public offering price of DoorDash, the online food ordering company — one of the best performing stocks in 2021 — is now trading around its I.P.O. price.
The share price of SoftBank’s biggest holding, Alibaba, has dropped by about 60 percent from its October 2020 high. SoftBank put more than $10 billion into WeWork, which went public last year and is now trading at less than $6 billion. And after the Arm deal with Nvidia collapsed, SoftBank plans to take the chip design company public instead.
“Even if they’re going through this pain at the moment, they’re still actually in the black,” Mr. Ferragu said of the firm’s latest results.
SoftBank has seen its share of internal turmoil, too. In recent months, at least four senior investors have left or announced plans to leave.
Last month, SoftBank also lost Mr. Claure, one of its most high-profile executives, following an acrimonious compensation battle. Mr. Claure, once a key deputy and close confidante of Mr. Son’s, had argued that his boss had promised to pay him $2 billion over several years for his current and future work.