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SoftBank Planning Vision Fund Staff Cuts of At Least 30%, Sources Say

SoftBank Planning Vision Fund Staff Cuts of At Least 30%, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- SoftBank Group Corp. has started laying off employees at its loss-making Vision Fund and is expected to cut at least 30% of its staff, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Tokyo-based company began telling some workers of the reductions Thursday with at least 150 likely to be affected, said the people, asking not to be named as the information is not public.

Among those cut are US-based partners Tom Cheung, who spearheaded the fund’s investment in smart window maker View, and Raman Nanda, a longtime SB Energy executive specializing in climate tech, some of the people said. The Vision Fund unit, headquartered in London, had about 500 employees including staff at the Latin America fund.

Representatives for SoftBank declined to comment. Shares in the company fell as much as 2.4% in Tokyo on Friday, following a broad selloff in tech stocks.

Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of the group, had said in August he would implement cost cuts at his conglomerate and the Vision Fund investment arm after a record $23 billion loss. Most of the losses came from a plunge in the valuations of portfolio companies, including South Korea Coupang Inc. and DoorDash Inc. SoftBank also reported a $6 billion foreign exchange loss because of the weaker yen.

Internally, SoftBank debated how deeply to cut the Vision Fund unit. It planned staff cuts of at least 20%, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month, while some executives argued for as high as 50%.

“Market conditions have noticeably worsened in the past month with the Vision Fund’s public portfolio on track for $5 billion in losses for the quarter,” said analyst Kirk Boodry of Redex Research who publishes on Smartkarma, in response to the bigger-than-expected scope of the cuts.

The Japanese entrepreneur said he would take defensive steps to navigate a prolonged tech downturn. SoftBank said last month that it had raised more than $17 billion by selling forward contracts on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the Chinese e-commerce company whose meteoric growth cemented Son’s reputation as a startup investor.

Son is trying to wait out the technology slump so that he can pull off a successful initial public offering for Arm Ltd., the chip designer that SoftBank bought for $32 billion. The CEO has said he aims to make the offering the biggest-ever for a chip company.

(Updates with names of partners who were cut and stock price reaction from second paragraph)

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