In his presentation at the annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday, SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son expounded on how the Japanese conglomerate — best known for its $100 billion Vision Fund — was no mere investor but a visionary capitalist like the Rothschilds, who helped fund the industrial revolution as SoftBank was funding the AI revolution.
Shareholders, it turns out, were more interested in stock buybacks.
Attendees at the online meeting kicked off the Q&A session with a series of hard-hitting questions on whether SoftBank was planning any new share repurchases, following a massive Y2.5 trillion ($23 billion) program announced last year. And if no fresh buybacks were coming, they asked, how did Mr. Son plan to get the share price back up after a recent slide?
“SoftBank’s market capitalization has fallen Y10 trillion ($90 billion) since the company announced its record-breaking profit” of around $46 billion in May, said one shareholder. “What is SoftBank’s… strategy to raise its share price?”
SoftBank’s shares have lost nearly a quarter of their value since their recent high. Analysts and investors have attributed that drop to Mr. Son’s failure to unveil further buybacks.
Mr. Son replied that as a big shareholder himself — he owns around 30% of the company — he was always thinking about share buybacks as an option, but that the merits of repurchases had to be weighed against other things like SoftBank’s financial strength and opportunities to invest. Right now, Mr. Son said, he is very focused on making investments for his second Vision Fund, a $30 billion successor to the $100 billion fund.
“It may be today, or tomorrow, or in three months, or in three years — I don’t know when (the next buyback) will be” Mr. Son said.
As for SoftBank’s big share-price drop: Think of it as a buying opportunity, he said. The company’s recent soaring profit, which followed a string of successful IPOs from the Vision Fund, was a sign of its investment prowess, Mr. Son said. That should inspire investors to buy and bid the company’s share price back up, he said.