KEY POINTS

  • Son sold assets worth $80B because "anything can happen in coming two or three months"
  • It is getting better with news of vaccine, but still want to be prepared: Son
  • Son alluded to Lehman Brothers' 2008 collapse how one event can bring down establishments

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son sold assets worth nearly $80 billion this year to protect the company from a possible “worst-case scenario” if the world goes back into lockdown due to fresh coronavirus infections.

Son joined The New York Times’ Dealbook Conference virtually from Tokyo and spoke about the company’s contingency plan in case of a global emergency. 

He said his initial plan was to sell assets worth $40 billion but ended up selling just double to give the company enough liquidity to function in case of a global shutdown.

“In the next two or three months, any disaster could happen. So we are just preparing for the worst-case scenario,” Son said during the conference. “I think it is getting better with this news of the vaccine’s success, but I still want to be prepared, so that is why today we have almost $80 billion cash in hand ourselves.”

Its largest deals included the sale of semiconductor company ARM to Nvidia for $40 billion. SoftBank also shed its stake in T-Mobile worth nearly $20 billion.

Without clarifying what kind of disaster he is predicting, Son said even with the vaccine under development, who knows what will happen. Son said “a major company could collapse,” which would cause a domino effect, similar to the 2008 Lehman Brothers crisis.

The founder and CEO said that in case markets fall, the liquidity will help the company buy undervalued assets or buy back more stock. He also said SoftBank would diversify its portfolio investments and focus on SoftBank Vision Fund.

Son commented on the raging war between the Trump administration and TikTok, saying it was sad that the U.S. is contemplating a shutdown of the app. SoftBank had led a $3 billion funding round in TikTok parent company ByteDance in 2018. Son also advocated for the tech giants in the country, currently under scrutiny for alleged anti-competitive practices, saying they should not be broken up just because they have massive market value.

The results will be a relief for SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, who has faced an increasing drumbeat of criticism for his investment strategy after recent record losses for the firm The results will be a relief for SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, who has faced an increasing drumbeat of criticism for his investment strategy after recent record losses for the firm Photo: AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI