SoftBank forecasts $7 billion full year net loss on coronavirus, WeWork

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Struggling Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group on Monday forecast a $7 billion net loss for the year ended March due to the negative impact of coronavirus and losses related to WeWork.

The telecoms and investment giant, led by flamboyant entrepreneur Masayoshi Son, also said in a surprise press release it expected to suffer an operating loss of 1.35 trillion yen or $12.5 billion.

The firm cited a 1.8 trillion yen loss at its SoftBank Vision Fund, blaming “the deteriorating market environment” in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Under Son’s leadership SoftBank Group has morphed into an investment and technology firm, and its $100-billion Vision Fund has taken stakes in some of Silicon Valley’s hottest startups.

More recently, however, Son has faced criticism over his commitment to startups some say are overvalued and lack clear profit models.

The group last year announced its long-mooted Vision Fund 2, again targeting around $100 billion, but investors have been slower to commit this time around.

In Monday’s release, SoftBank said it also expected a loss of 800 billion yen on investments held outside the Vision Fund, including in WeWork.

SoftBank and WeWork are embroiled in a legal battle after the US office-sharing giant last week accused the Japanese firm of breach of contract by backing out of a $3-billion rescue plan.

SoftBank terminated the agreement claiming WeWork failed to live up to its obligations, and cited “multiple, new, and significant pending criminal and civil investigations” surrounding WeWork and its co-founder Adam Neumann.

The move by SoftBank marked a dramatic turn of events at troubled WeWork, once hailed as a dazzling unicorn valued at $47 billion.

Things began to unravel last year as WeWork lost cash and canceled its share offering, with Neumann pushed out - albeit with a generous package.

SoftBank Group explained Monday’s surprise release by saying the firm wanted “to provide investors with prompt information” given the slump in the company’s fortunes.

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