SoftBank Group is planning to cut headcount at its flagship Vision Fund investing arm, CEO Masayoshi Son said today, after a crash in the value of its portfolio pushed his conglomerate to a record quarterly net loss.
Vision Fund had upended the world of venture capital with splashy bets on startups such as lift-hailers Uber and Didi.
It posted a $23.1 billion loss in the three months from April to June as value evaporated from its investments in the market rout.
"The world is in great confusion," Son said at an earnings news conference.
The result caps a tumultous six months for the Vision Fund, which posted a record $26.2 billion quarterly loss in May after SoftBank was caught out by rising interest rates and political instability that hammered markets.
Son has already radically scaled back investment activity. The Vision Fund arm approved just $600m in new investments in the first quarter, compared with $20.6 billion during the same time a year earlier.
The billionaire today pledged to go further - limiting the second fund just to managing its current portfolio of investments, while planning workforce cuts at Vision Fund and cost reductions across the group.
"We need to cut costs with no sacred areas," Son said.
Son had already suffered a series of high-profile reversals after big bets by the first Vision Fund in late-stage startups such as office sharing company WeWork soured, prompting him to tighten investment controls with the second fund.
However the billionaire said Vision Fund 2, which has taken smaller stakes in a larger number of companies, had invested at frothy prices.
"We were in a kind of bubble on valuations," he said.
The second Vision Fund's portfolio of 269 firms, which cost $48.2 billion to acquire, was worth just $37.2 billion at the end of June.
"If we had been more selective and invested better we wouldn't have received this heavy blow," Son said.
Listed investments that fell during the quarter included warehouse robotics firm AutoStore Holdings and artificial intelligence firm SenseTime Group.
SoftBank said it wrote down the value of unlisted assets across its two Vision Funds by 1.14 trillion yen ($8.45 billion). Analysts have said writedowns of those private assets were unlikely to reflect the extent of current market weakness.
Plunging initial public offering volumes and market scepticism towards money-losing startups have squeezed an important source of capital for SoftBank, which hopes to list chip designer Arm following the collapse of a sale to Nvidia.
To raise cash, SoftBank has exited companies including Uber Technologies and home-selling platform Opendoor Technologies for a total gain of $5.6 billion.
SoftBank sold Uber at an average share price of $41.47, compared to the Friday closing price of $32.01.
The group has used more than two-thirds of the capital in a 1 trillion yen buyback programme launched last November to support its shares, which are down 5% year-to-date, compared to a 2% drop in Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index.
SoftBank today announced an additional share repurchase programme worth up to 400 billion yen to run to August next year.
The conglomerate is not the only investor heavily exposed to the high-growth stocks now shunned by investors.
Hedge fund Tiger Global, which competes with "unicorn hunter" Son on deals, saw its flagship fund fall 50% in the first half of the year after it underestimated the impact of surging inflation on markets.