No, SoftBank Won’t Go Down in Flames: Term Sheet

October 11, 2019, 1:34 PM UTC

Following the WeWork fiasco, all eyes have been on SoftBank. 

The Japanese behemoth’s major investments haven’t had the best year. Uber’s stock has been tanking, WeWork cancelled its IPO, and SoftBank’s own shares have been trading at close to 31% lower than they were in April. In a recent interview, Son lamented his investing record and even said he’s changed his tune when speaking to founders.

“The results still have a long way to go and that makes me embarrassed and impatient,” Son said in an interview with Nikkei Business. “I used to envy the scale of the markets in the U.S. and China, but now you see red-hot growth companies coming out of small markets like in Southeast Asia. There is just no excuse for entrepreneurs in Japan, myself included.”

But here’s a twist: Fortune’s Erik Sherman writes that the magnitude of disaster WeWork represents for SoftBank could have been grossly overstated in media coverage and, under some conditions, the investment could even turn a profit.

At least one analyst (who was not authorized to be directly quoted) was told by a SoftBank official that the investment giant has less exposure to WeWork than generally thought, Sherman writes.

Outsiders are less optimistic. Atul Goyal, a technology equity research analyst at Jefferies, tells Fortune that he is “very surprised” to hear this. “We are pretty certain that it is about $10 to $11 billion that they have invested,” Goyal says. In other words, if WeWork’s value drops to $10 billion, how could SoftBank’s share represent anything but a loss?

From the story

Startup information site Crunchbase shows SoftBank participation in multiple WeWork funding rounds that totaled $10.4 billion… But half of that investment was a purchase of shares from employees and previous investors at a valuation of about $20 billion, according to the New York Times. As far as other investment rounds, SoftBank may have taken the common VC practice of negotiating down valuations. So long as WeWork’s valuation doesn’t drop below the valuation levels at which SoftBank obtained shares, there would be no absolute loss to the investment firm. 

Sherman also delves into SoftBank’s history of hedging bets, showing how the firm’s opaqueness could actually serve as its escape vessel. Read more. 

RECESSION WATCH: Fortune teamed up with SurveyMonkey to poll 1,470 executives who make purchasing decisions at a variety of companies. The top findings?

— Over the past 12 months, 29% of purchasers said their industry was heating up, 60% said it was holding steady, and 11% said it was cooling down. 

— Just under half of buyers (49%) said the amount spent on purchasing at their firm was up year-over-year in the most recent quarter, edging out those who said it held steady (34%) and purchasers who saw a decrease (11%). 

— 2 in 3 purchasers say a recession is likely within the next 12 months.

PS: We’re launching a new premium newsletter, Fortune Analytics, which will bring readers exclusive business insights from proprietary data. For a sneak peek, click here.


- Grammarly, a San Francisco-based provider of an AI-powered digital writing assistant, raised $90 million in funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion. General Catalyst led the round, and was joined by investors including IVP.

- Einride, a Sweden-based autonomous vehicle startup, raised $25 million in Series A funding. EQT Ventures and NordicNinja VC co-led the round, and were joined by investors including Ericsson Ventures, Norrsken Foundation, Plum Alley Investments and Plug and Play Ventures.

- Descartes Labs, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based deep-learning image analysis company, raised $20 million in funding. Union Grove Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Ajax Strategies, Crosslink Capital, and March Capital Partners.

- XTransfer, a China-based provider of cross-border financial services for enterprises, raised $15 million in Series B-1 funding. eWTP Fund led the round.

- Nexkey, an Emeryville, California-based provider of mobile access control solutions, raised $6 million in Series A funding. Upfront Ventures led the round.

- Jones, a New York-based startup that automates insurance compliance for property managers, raised $4.6 million in funding. Hetz Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including JLL Spark, WeWork, MetaProp Ventures, Ground Up Ventures and 500 Startups.

- Phitonex, a Durham, N.C.-based developer of fluorescent labels for life science research and biomarker detection, raised $2 million in seed funding. The investors were not named.


- ImmunoMolecular Therapeutics, a Woburn, Massachussetts-based developer of personalized therapies for autoimmune disease, raised $10 million in Series A funding. JDRF T1D Fund and Morningside Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Colorado University Healthcare Innovation Fund.


- National Fire & Safety, which is backed by Highview Capital, acquired RCI Systems Inc, a Tempe, Arizona-based contractor of fire-sprinkler services. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- Artisan Design Group, a portfolio company of The Sterling Group, acquired Dixie Carpet Installations Inc, a Missouri City, Texas-based provider of flooring installation and replacement services to existing and new construction multifamily properties. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- VMG Partners acquired Popchips, a Playa Vista, California-based snack brand. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- Cornell Capital LLC acquired Spectrum Automotive Holdings Corp, an agent, marketer and administrator of finance and insurance products for the U.S. automotive market. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 


- Standard Cognition acquired DeepMagic, a New York-based company focused on autonomous retail kiosks.


- BioNTech (Nasdaq: BNTX), a Germany-based biotech firm, raised $150 million for its U.S. IPO, Reuters reports. J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, UBS and SVB Leerink are the lead underwriters. BioNTech is trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “BNTX.” BioNTech’s investors include Fidelity Management & Research Company. Read more.


- Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based organism company, raised $350 million for the Ferment Consortium, a new fund. Ferment Consortium’s investors include Viking Global Investors, General Atlantic and Cascade Investment

- Updata Partners, a Washington D.C.-based private equity and venture capital firm, raised $237.55 million for its sixth fund, according to an SEC filing. The target is $300 million. 

- BoxGroup, a New York-based venture capital firm, raised $82.5 million for its new fund BoxGroup Four and another $82.5 million for BoxGroup More. 


- Clayton, Dubilier & Rice named Björn Killmer as a partner. 

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