Mar 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

Softbank CEO looks to quell investor nerves

Masaroshi Son speaks at a podium
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son on Monday promised institutional investors that he'll do a better job of listening to their concerns, but stopped well short of saying that they'll change his mind.

The state of play: Son was "interviewed" by Goldman Sachs investment banking co-head Dan Dees, at a private event in New York.

  • It was planned before Elliott Management took over a multi-billion dollar stake in SoftBank, and began pushing for stock buyback, greater transparency and fewer private company investments until outside capital is secured for Vision Fund 2.
  • The goal was to calm investor nerves, particularly in the wake of WeWork.

Son didn't commit to following any of Elliott's proposals, but did express some past fondness for buybacks and a willingness to add more independent directors, per sources in the room.

  • He also reiterated recent comments about how it could be at least another year until Vision Fund 2 holds a first close, with intervening investments to be funded by the firm itself (and Vision Fund partners).
  • He also took a playful poke at critics, by noting internal resistance to his original investment in Alibaba.

The bottom line: Son appears bowed but not broken. Likely because he's one of the few investors who rode the dotcom train from boom to bust and back again. He plans to keep doing things his way, buttressed by a few cosmetic concessions.

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