But those paper gains were fun while they lasted.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
The numbers are huge: SoftBank Group said that it would book a loss of $16.7 billion (¥1.8 trillion) at its Vision Fund for its fiscal year ended March 31, stemming “from a decrease in the fair value of investments due to the deteriorating market environment.” Separately, a spokesman of the fund told Barron’s that this loss included $9.9 billion in new losses.
In November, SoftBank had already reported a loss for the quarter (ended September 30) of $9.0 billion (¥970 billion) on its tech funds, including the Vision Fund. Because the “market environment” was already deteriorating, as WeWork and some of its other investments were blowing up. No Covid-19 needed.
But for its first quarter, ended June 30, SoftBank reported that it had been able to finagle an “unrealized valuation gain” of $3.8 billion at its Vision Fund and Delta Fund, “reflecting an increase in the fair values of OYO and its affiliate, Slack, Doordash, and other investments.”
In plain English SoftBank was just inflating valuations as it went to show paper profits. And those companies and valuations have been getting ripped to shreds.
This OYO is of course the Indian company Oyo Hotels & Homes that, with SoftBank’s huge investment, became in no time one of the largest and most chaotic global chains of leased and franchised hotels, homes, and living spaces. Last year, SoftBank inflated Oyo’s valuation to $10 billion. The charade too started blowing up late last year. Now, Oyo is in triage mode, freezing operations and laying off employees across the world.
In addition, Oyo CEO Ritesh Agarwal had borrowed $2 billion to buy shares in OYO as its valuation was being inflated, and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son personally guaranteed the loans. Tsk, tsk, tsk, what the heck were you thinking!?!
Oyo is on the list of SoftBank’s strokes of genius that may not survive in their current form. That list includes other SoftBank shining mega-star investments, such as WeWork and real-estate mega-startup Compass, and a bunch of other startups, all of which are experts at burning large amounts of cash, and none of which have figured out yet how to break even. Some have already run aground after having been abandoned by SoftBank.
SoftBank’s tech fund losses in the second quarter (ended Sep. 30) of $9.0 billion and in the fourth quarter (ended March 31) of $9.9 billion blew up the whole charade.
The $97 billion Vision Fund was launched in May 2017 under immense hoopla with big investments from SoftBank, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and others. It became the creature that helped turn the startup bubble into the crazy startup mega-bubble. The Vision Fund plowed this huge pile of money into 88 startups, maniacally inflating their “valuations” at every step along the way.
In no time, the “valuation” of WeWork was inflated to $47 billion, creating enormous paper profits while it lasted. WeWork started collapsing last year and has now stopped paying rent at some US locations. It included others such as Uber, that saw their valuations crater even before their IPOs, and then saw their shares crater further after their IPOs. And now comes Covid-19.
SoftBank said in its statement that its net loss for the company overall for the fiscal year would be about $7 billion (¥750 billion), its biggest loss since going public in 1994, and the first annual net loss since 2005, the Nikkei reported, citing Capital IQ.
But this $7 billion loss includes an increase in the accounting income from its stake in Alibaba Group Holdings, where SoftBank is now the largest holder.
“These forecasts are intended to provide investors with prompt information on estimates of financial results in light of the deterioration in the current market environment,” SoftBank said.
SoftBank made two super-successful investments: Alibaba when it was still a startup; and in 1996, it together with Yahoo founded Yahoo Japan (which in 2019 changed its name to Z Holdings Corp).
Last month, in an effort to salvage what there is to salvage and prop up its own shares, SoftBank announced a plan: It would sell about $41 billion of its investment portfolio and use the proceeds to pay down $23 billion of its $100 billion or so in debt at the holding company, which would be good; and it would waste, blow, and incinerated the remaining $18 billion to buy back its own shares.
The plan to incinerate $18 billion on share buybacks caused Moody’s to slash SoftBank’s credit rating by two notches, to Ba3, which is three notches into junk (my cheat sheet for corporate bond credit ratings), and placed it on review “for further downgrade.”
Through the Vision Fund and in separate investment vehicles, SoftBank also has big stakes in Slack [WORK], in cancer medicine company Guardant Health [GH], and in ex-unicorn Zume, which tried to use a food truck with a robot that made the pizza while being delivered. In January, Zume reportedly laid off 80% of its staff. No Covid-19 needed.
SoftBank invested in ecommerce startup Brandless, which announced in early February that it had shut down due a “fiercely competitive” ecommerce market that was “unsustainable” for its business. No Covid-19 needed.
It invested in car-rental unicorn Getaround which announced in early January that it would lay off about a quarter of its staff after SoftBank refused to throw more good money after bad. Other SoftBank funded startups too started laying off people before Covid-19, including logistics unicorn Flexport.
The entire startup universe had been getting boosted by SoftBank and the Vision Fund. Practically none of these companies had any plans to ever break even. All they knew how to do was burn cash. Uber, which has been at it for a decade, is still burning cash hand over fist. That was the model.
The idea was that an endless stream of investor-money could always be relied upon to feed the cash-burn machines and that there would always be a bigger fool eager to buy them at ludicrous valuations.
But that construct started coming unglued mid-2019, and pieces started falling off later in the year and earlier this year. Now there is Covid-19 and the lockdowns, and everything has changed, and even strong companies are struggling for survival and for bailouts, and who knows what’s even left over from SoftBank’s hyped and inflated startup universe when we come out at the other end of this.
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Wolf, nice short squeeze in Amazon, Netflix, Tesla, etc, today. Alowed me to get some longer term Amzn puts that were too pricey. And a bit of Netflix. Tesla puts are to rich for my taste, and much lower risk/return.
Studied timelines of previous bubbles this weekend. Second leg down is much more extended generally, 3-6 times the duration of the initial drop. Plus another 2-4 weeks for top formation on the bear rally.
But this time the initial drop was like instantenios – 3 weeks. Still hard to tell how much Fed can pretend and extend.
All in all we may be looking to Sept-Jan for the next leg to complete.
Apologies to gramar police :-]
Good luck on your puts, I’m loaded up on the November SPY (S&P 500) and January IWM (Russell 2000) contracts. I chose these because I was surprised how much of the downside you could lock in with those even with significant duration.
Of course I’m way down so far, and could easily lose it all, but I’ve got some time.
Like you, I’m betting that the Covid-19 shock was enough to prick the everything bubble. The fed’s got hot air blowing in like crazy, but the balloon could still lose altitude. It does get a lot more nerve-racking when you’ve got significant money on the line, that’s for sure.
The 30% overnight drop in crude started the margin call domino from hell.
Im not sure, the Fed started cutting rates at all time highs on stocks, 50-year low unemployment, and before they new what coronaviruses are.
Btw BABA puts maybe just as good as Amazon, to avoid putting all eggs in one busket. And FB is same as Goog, etc. Diversify to account for stock splits.
Finally, maybe a good idea not to rely on leverage short ETFs too much, in case they change the rules on you for ‘common good’.
“All in all we may be looking to Sept-Jan for the next leg to complete.”
Agreed…the Q2 numbers (biggest C19 impact, hopefully) won’t be out until 4th week of July and beyond…that’s when the true extent of earnings hit (well, what passes for earnings under GAAP) will be known with some precision.
Right now it is all hair trigger twitching among the high risk players in the mkt…once some actual financial numbers start getting published, the bulk weight of mkt participants will start to shift.
Hard to see how this is going to be V shaped for a lot of companies…certain industries are just too C19 tainted, literally or figuratively, and too many other industries had only survived by “grace” of ZIRP (ie, transaction level economics sucked).
The next SoftBank Vision fund meeting will take place in the Saudis embassy in Istanbul
LOL! This time, they’ll make sure the cameras are disabled.
Simply excellent in that ‘hey, nice bone saw!’ way. ‘What? Well, in that case, my money’s in. Hard to believe everyone else missed this market! I mean, well, yes, I also love the simplicity. Sort of gets down into the basics, doesn’t it? Are the headphones included?’
We’ll see, Softbank is the self described visionary with a 300 year plan. Their “planning” is simply above us.
Assuming that the alleged company funded by Softbank truly was trying food trucks carrying robots to make pizza while it was being delivered (presumably also carrying the heavy ovens, oven fuel, cooking supplies, refrigerators for supplies, batteries, etc., in their trucks to enable such repeated pizza production) this company’s management might have benefited from consulting with relevant experts/psychologists before proceeding. Too many other companies have been surviving with similar fantasies, impractical dreams, and failures to recognize major problems due to the ultra low interest rates maintained by the bank cartel called the “Federal” Reserve to funnel funds to its banksters.
Huge numbers of such companies were bound to fail. The US cannot bail them all out: they were not long for this world even without the coronavirus epidemic. This economic catastrophe was predicted for years.
We are not nearing the “peak” in this epidemic. There will be repeated, multiple peaks in each state or sub-area, particularly if any state is reopened. There will not be one peak.
Stock markets are all in an accelerating, falling elevator in a gigantic skyscraper. We have not even passed the higher floors yet: many companies’ price earnings ratios were still fantastical even days ago, when I last checked.
Stock prices are mostly going to keep plunging down. The banksters of the Fed cannot now control the markets anymore than they can order the oceans to part.
The competent governors of NY, CA, etc., will hopefully protect their states’ residents by keeping them locked down. What will happen to the rest of America?
I still think that the prepers with their guns, bomb shelters, and gardens are over-reacting. However, Chris Martensen’s summaries of research studies that this virus might damage our T-cells and cause permanent bodily damage to infected, who number in the hundreds of thousands or millions makes me think that the severity of the harm that this pandemic will cause is still being underestimated.
Is re-infection after a few months of immunity possible? Will thousands or millions be disabled or need future, continuing medical care? Expect many health insurers to declare bankruptcy in the future if this is the case.
Were most US companies so foolish that they failed to plan for the anticipated economic catastrophe, which was predicted by so many experts? If so, a depression may now be inevitable. I suspect that it is.
Good summary Mike, and in spite of my wish to do otherwise, I agree with your general prognosis, both short term and long term, especially after going out first time in 2 weeks, second in six weeks yesterday, and seeing way too many covidiots without masks or gloves. Clerk and I were the only ones in a store at one point with PPE.
And bil says his area, 20 miles away, is jammed with shoppers in every store w/o proper gear or distancing. Maybe they think like Sweden, just get it over with… results will be interesting.
Puts on Amazon? The company that is looking to hire a bazillion more employees? The company whose stock is being purchased with money printed out of thin air by the Fed? The company that will benefit from the crisis over every brick and mortar still existing today?
I could have sworn that one of the lessons of the Dot com bubble was not to short stocks just because they are increasing in price.
Yes that one, with gazillion employees, the entire 1/10 of Walmart employees.
Here is a real life example..
Amzn Jun 1500 put I bought ealier this year for $400, and later sold for $3500, kept on going higher to $10K when vix hit 75-80. So that’s 25 times price swing. Now the same put will cost you under $800.
Of course I would not go with June this time. And vix is not 12, so don’t try this at home.
If Bezos make a play for the USPS, the sky is the limit!
Nothing goes to hell in a straight line… until it does.
Wherever you go, there you are.
Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.
and it took me forever to find the place!
Gradually then suddenly?
Quite the jagged edge though. Just moar unicorns for the bleedin ..
Hey ! Anyone ever try doin some Hi-Tech Scrimshaw ?
Ah yes…good old Enron accounting.
At least, in the end, they went to jail.
“But for its first quarter, ended June 30, SoftBank reported that it had been able to finagle an “unrealized valuation gain” of $3.8 billion at its Vision Fund and Delta Fund, “reflecting an increase in the fair values of OYO and its affiliate, Slack, Doordash, and other investments.”
Ken Lay escaped prison by dying.
Now his wife Linda, she’s still living large.
He’s probably just kinkin it, sippin mia-tais on some sunny beach somewhere, with Jeffery tending barr …
I wonder if another accounting firm will go down.
Nope, they’re Too Few To Fail now.
i so hope you are wrong.
the realist in me is laughing it’s as off right now.
long live the new accounting.
“I wonder if another accounting firm will go down”
I have yet to read an audited statement these days that doesn’t have 3 or 4 pages of notes telling you that everything you read could be 100% B.S. despite the audit.
Most accountants will be replaced with software. This will enable new leaner firms to come in. But, as always, something ridiculous and unexpected could happen, as it usually does with the us economy.
Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Breaking: Moody’s Ratings Actually Does Its Job, Slashes Softbank to Ba3 Deep Junk
Heavens! I’m going to have to have a cup of tea and a lie down. What is the world coming to. Imagine if they did the same to another 1000 mark-to-fantasy companies, vehicles and the tottering angels?? Gives me quite the vapours.
Double check me, but I’m pretty sure that Softbank promptly fired Moody’s as its rating agency.
Softbank so feels like 1997-2000 internet bubble…cubed.
Yes, SoftBank sure did — fired Moody’s on the spot. Which shows the conflict of interest, and how tough it is for a ratings agency to make calls like this. If you don’t play the game, you’re out of business, the business being to help sell bonds to investors at the lowest possible yield.
Wolf – my memory is hazy but wasn’t there a debate after the GFC and in the margins of Dodd-Frank being passed which suggested that if ratings agencies continued to be part of – and not culpably liable for – such market failure and capture shenanigans that some form of Ratings Utility function was required? Effectively a quasi-regulator that would be the state-sanctioned rater of last resort, think the analogy was food and drug, product safety, or other function.
I think it was booted out of play for being anti-market, unwieldy, government creep, and generally too-sensible-to-succeed.
This might be nothing but a PR move on Moody’s part. Take the baddest of the bad apples and have a public parting of the ways with them. Then privately assure all the other bad apples that things are still ok. No worries.
Publicly, Moody’s can turn around and say: “see. we’re honest brokers of ratings here. we are unbiased, and unafraid, so trust our ratings.” While they cater to the much larger bond markets that are full of stuff that might even be worse than Softbank.
The rating agencies usually don’t do this until after company’s stock has lost 98% of its value and is teetering on bankruptcy.
Speaking of which, S&P recently announced that it appears “increasingly likely” that Illinois muni bonds will be downgraded into junk.
House Freedom Caucus chief says Dr. Fauci has “emasculated the economy” and it’s time for him to “move along.” “He shouldn’t have a seat at the table.”
Ah, the fragile ego of the economy. Like my ex. It was time for me to move along, too.
As Boehner said of the Freedom Caucus – “They can’t tell you what they’re for. They can tell you everything they’re against. They’re anarchists. They want total chaos. Tear it all down and start over. That’s where their mindset is.”
They won’t tell you who they are, either.
We have to pass the bill so you can see what’s in it.
Boehner called them “legislative terrorists”.
you have me pining for the fjords of politics, back when it was “all about the economy, stupid.” and andy griffith was the the town constable.
Anarchists DO NOT want total chaos. They want less or no government intervention in people’s lives and things like markets. I don’t believe it’s workable in the real world because of the nature of man but they seem to think it is. I know a few and they aren’t looking for chaos. They are looking for freedom actually
“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”
Suzie A, your description of anarchists is inaccurate, anarchism has a long and honorable tradition – in class struggle, anti-facist militarism (see Spanish civil war) and literary proliferation from Emma Goldman to Peter Kropotkin et al. I write this not as a personal attack but just because I have noticed a few posts on this site recently using ‘anarchist’ as a slur, revealing a well intentioned but real ignorance on the subject.
1901 McKinley murder was a pretty “honorable” introduction to anarchy. Might want to gain some expertise.
Similar to the very deep confusion and differences of widely used/accepted definitions of ”conservative”,, ”liberal” and especially, ”reactionary”, very different ideas abound of ”anarchist.”
Many of the differences can be attributed to ”definition creep” over time, but other differences appear to be contemporary and deliberate attempts to minimize any real debate on where we should go as a society and increase confusion as a method to increase control of peoples everywhere.
In the case of anarchy, in spite of its general bad press, I find it helpful to differentiate between ‘negative’ anarchy with no apparent long term goal outside of destruction of civil society, and ‘positive’ anarchy, with the goals of a society with the very minimum of guv mint doing only what is clearly in the common good, such as defense of the whole, etc., and leaving everything else to private/family works; my original basis for this was the book, “Islandia” by Austin Tappen Wright, a clear utopian vision, (perhaps augmented by some of the writing of Ayn Rand, though I consider Rand to be mostly dystopian eventually.)
Clearly, lacking thorough/complete education of every individual (at least those not ”non compos mentos”) to the point that we understand the difference between individual greed at the expense of others and the clear benefit of mutual well being of all, we are not going anywhere near positive anarchy any time soon.
We can still use what opportunity presents to keep rolling that boulder up the hill with hope that, someday it will stay up there, even if Atlas cannot keep it on his shoulders, eh?
The Free Market® has shown it is no match for the coronavirus.
The meaning of the word ‘anarchist’ depends entirely on context.
In these two main contexts, the meanings are almost opposites.
The anarchists of the Spanish Civil War belonged to one or more political parties and wished to organize society in a way much like people calling themselves socialists.
‘The newly liberated (anarchist) zones worked on entirely socialist libertarian principles; decisions were made through councils of ordinary citizens without any sort of bureaucracy.’ Wiki
Note words ‘decision’ and ‘council’ The latter is a form of government and its decisions were law.
In the other more common context, an anarchist is a lone wolf or (very small pack) rejecting all government. They may not recognize any law. The rare ‘anarchist’ bombings in the US date from the 1920’s, but including the Uni-bomber and the Omaha Federal Building were not the actions of a political party. The first (I believe on Wall Street) and the Uni-bomber were lone wolves. McVeigh, speeding from the Omaha scene with out- dated license plates, may have imagined he was part of a movement but only one other person was prosecuted.
There are lots of English words where meaning depends on context. The political terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are so notoriously contextual they are like two pack mules that the user can load with whatever he likes.
A ‘fair maiden’ is desirable, a school grade of ‘fair’ is bad and a car in ‘fair condition’ is a wreck.
The vagueness of ‘left and right’ when used as directions (your right or my right?) is dangerous in navigation and are incorrect in that context. They are replaced by ‘Starboard and Port’ meaning the ship’s or plane’s sides.
Terry Nichols got life in prison and Michael and Lori Fortier both copied a plea and are probably hanging out with Ken Lay on the beach reminiscing about the good ole’ days when they hung out with McVeigh.
Yes a lot of confusion on the definition, I maintain the original meaning i.e. anti-capitalist (communist) and anti-state. A lot of anarchists have moved to call themselves Libertarian Communist. Anarchist FAQ published by theanarchistlibrary dot org is an excellent 101.
That Caucus and others like it are Exhibit A in the case to repeal Citizens United SCOTUS ruling. However, Fauci has long been a real politician in the bureaucratic NIH system. If you haven’t read “And The Band Played On” about the dismissal of the nascent AIDS epidemic by our national health establishment, you are missing an accurate portrayal of Fauci’s ego.
I have an old bicycle that I can pay some auditor to sign-off that it has huge profit potential. Where can I find a mark… err I mean “investor”. I hear the Fed is now buying these things. I am thinking of tranche-ing up this bicycle.. any buyers?
No mention of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund in your story about SoftBank. Were they not one of the biggest sources of money for SoftBank? Saudi Arabia is not going to come out of this financial pandemic in too good of a shape, I think
“The $97 billion Vision Fund was launched in May 2017 under immense hoopla with big investments from SoftBank, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and others. It became the creature that helped turn…”
I think the money from the ME Sov Funds is what really “made” the Vision Fund and therefore juiced up the second leg of Silicon Valley bubble 2.0, circa 2017-8.
And empowered all the SoftHead investment behavior related thereto.
But the story behind the story?
The ME post-2014 pivot away from oil, which gave the Sov Funds a directive to “diversify” – washing up on the shores of Softbank…
I realize Softbank is a Japanese (not US or SEC regulated) company. but (as an ex-auditor & CFO) I’d love to see the price discovery on the hot steaming mess that is the WeWork compost heap.
By far, the biggest investor in Softbank’s first fund, is the Saudi Arabian sovereign investment fund. That crowd has a pretty nasty public record of negotiation behavior, including torture and killings.
It’s not that often you get to publicly watch tens-of-billions of non-taxpayer assets circle and go down the drain.
I’m not a big conspiracy guy but it’s my contention the Saudi’s purposely tanked the price of oil to cripple the industry here in the US, in part, because of the big hole in their Vison-Less Fund. Oh, yes, lest I not forget King Trump just “made a deal” with the Saudis & Putin. So much for that foolish theory.
Saudis have been publicly doing that for years. They fully intend to crush American fracking for all time.
For a number of years, low oil prices have failed to completely fund the Saudi state. Withdrawals from the Saudi Investment fund made up the shortfall. This has REAL life-and-death significance: the kingdom has to make ever-higher payments (basically, bribes) to citizens to get them to support the monarchy. No money = no bribes = a nation of seriously angry citizens.
Now Softbank has put a multi-billion dollar dent in the Saudi national investment fund (I believe their investment was about $40B). Who the hell knows how much the Softbank fund is actually worth – it’s all unicorn poop. Stock prices indicate shareholders think Softbank’s investment fund is about 33% overvalued.
Obviously, there’s a lot of moving parts here, but low oil prices and low global demand due to Covid are causing huge problems. Wolf’s post seems to indicate the $16 loss is about half the difference built into the stock price. CAVEAT EMPTOR ON MY INTERPRETATION OF SOFTBANK ‘S INCREDIBLY OPAQUE FINANCIALS.
For some reason I’m moved to watch the movie The International again. I do like Clive Owen.
so…….. am i to assume you were erudite enough to short this?
usually you pooh-pooh the peasantry when they revel in their schadenfreude.
It’s so nice to read some good news when waves of negativity have been pounding us for weeks now.
If OYO wants to break even, or make a little cash, they need to do what Amazon did – hire some lobbyists — send them to Washington and bribe enough politicians who will then force the US government staff to exclusively use their services — i.e. all govt employees MUST use OYO properties whenever they travel in the US and globally.
I think your comment is aimed at me (apologies if I’m wrong).
Short answer (no pun intended): no.
Softbank trades only on the Tokyo; American banks could offer level 1, 2, or 3 ADRs; however, I’m not aware of any that do. Level 1 & 2 ADRs would have stupendously miserable financial disclosure, and Level 3, not much better.
Under normal circumstances, this clown-car stock cries out for a short; however, too much Japanese (and other government) money is sloshing around, making it everything but impossible to read the tea leaves (no pun intended).
Ooops – should have been addressed to p Coyle
Keep an eye on Compass. It’s a faux tech company that plowed $1.5 billion of investor money into existing brokerage firms across the most expensive real estate markets in the country. They picked off some great talent with crazy generous commission splits and purchased The others through acquisitions all while touting its amaaaaazing tech. I have direct experience with them and all I can say is it’s anything but. These folks were doing ok, but Now that the real estate Market is on the verge of collapse, I say sit back and wait for the fireworks to being.
Saw that Compass purchase just about every competitor in the Bay. Then saw they stole talent.
After that they started Compass Concierge, which lent out large amounts to clients to fix up their houses before sale – one year interest free…now putting smaller limits on this but be pretty surprised if they get all that money back.
Amazing how printed money/credit squeezes out earned money.
The new strategy for entrepreneurs that aren’t playing in the Fed’s/Wallstreet fake money game, is to sit down by the river bank, do as little as is necessary and watch the world go by.
Fake ideas, funded by fake money, leading to a fake future.
For Uber they actually did have a plan to profitability. They first wanted to dominate taxi rides through underbidding prices with investor cash, after running competition out of business, possibly then jacking up rates and making money. Otherwise by using self driving technology they stole from Google, replace all the human drivers and make money. They got caught though “stealing Google self driving car technology” and their self driving car program got set back. Overall, their plans would take too long to work after the setback and other self driving car competitors could come in without past debt.
Almost all other unicorns are jokes without a plan though.
Marblegate Asset Mgmt’s plan is to finish cabbies off.
Not much of a plan.
Their “moat” is a dude in a car with an app.
There is no way to keep that monopoly going to recover their massive losses with jacked up rates.
But Google doesn’t have self- driving technology, so if stealing it set Uber’s plans back, it helped Uber realize, as Musk has, that: ‘humans are underrated’
The faster Uber forgets the self- driving mirage and FOCUSES on it’s human partners, the better for Uber.
The term ‘vaporware’ (Spell Check OK’s it as one word: did not expect that) is 40 years old. By now the difference between the feasible and the practical should be evident. Self- driving is vaporware.
Around a certain route, within parameters, yes, a robot vehicle can negotiate a trip. The mining truck or railway is often cited. On your own land you can do anything you want. There are no rules or other drivers. This is not the same as driving and parking in everyday traffic.
Why suddenly and briefly was EVERYONE in self- driving?
It was ‘hot’, the next big thing, in short, a way to boost stock price without a buy back. Why spend money when you can just fire off a press release?
Those days are over.
PS: example of a driving challenge I hit today while visiting Victoria, BC. Not NY but a congested hood. I’m coming down the side road and realize, oh, oh, there isn’t room for me and the oncoming car to pass because of all the parked cars. Normally one of you finds a gap and pulls over. But the only gaps were far ahead on opposite sides at the same point. No one had a right of way. So we looked far ahead, saw that opening, and on arriving, wound around each other in a kind of dance, without stopping, each giving a wave.
I will bet that a self- driver can’t negotiate this because a negotiation is required. If it just stops, and waits for the path to clear, there is an impasse. This apparent submission is useless to the other car; it still can’t pass. One of the cars would have to have to reverse for half a block. Bet it won’t be the self- driver.
If self- drivers were legal tomorrow, Walmart wouldn’t allow them in regular parking, where they would enrage humans. They would have to have their own area, like a bus. Kind of a handicapped parking.
But two self-drivers would know miles ahead what’s waiting for them because they communicate with each other, and so they get this figured out way ahead of time … which vehicle pulls over and lets the other pass.
Sure, this requires a universe of self-drivers, and that that point, human drivers are the dumb hindrance.
Now take that driving challenge, and add 6 inches of snow and trailers to the vehicles.
“2 self drivers” – unless one was Tesla and the other was GM-Drive. Or Toyota. Or Waymo.
I think WR and I are both exaggerating. To call the tech ‘ vaporware’ is not quite right. Impressive strides have been made. I would stipulate to this: a lot of the practical issues would be solved or greatly alleviated if ONLY self- drivers (and public transit) were allowed in a crowded metro area.
In this controlled ‘air space’ the street could have guide strips and beacons at intersections. A lot of work has gone into recognition of traffic lights, but the current red- light, green- light is designed for humans. For self- drivers, radio beacons could do a better job.
It took the tech world 10 years to get 90% of the self driving right. It’ll take another 10 years to perfect the remaining 10%.
Uber is transitioning to a logistic company, i.e. like UPS, FedEx, etc. It will compete directly against Amazon’s own delivery arm. Perhaps Amazon will by Uber?
I don’t believe it will ever be 100%. At some point, probably in a decade or two, technology will be good enough to compete with human drivers. Maybe we will have a Turing test of sorts for drivers. If you are blindfolded and cannot tell if the driver is a human or a computer, it passes.
But the problem with self driving technology is not only technology. Tech part can be expedited. Companies like Google or Apple can put armies of smart engineers and solve most problems within a few years.
The biggest problem is people are not ready for it. And the entire industry needs to go through a more than fundamental shift. Government regulation needs to be in place, car manufacturers need to adapt. Insurance industry needs to change. And most importantly, people need to change. Probably, quite literally. A generation needs to leave earth a new generation who does not want to drive and used to taking Uber rides need to take over.
My 2 cents
Well, the “100%” I had in mind is the milestone where the tech reaches authority approval and public confidence. 100% perfect driving is impossible whether it’s human or machine since driving in public roads is subject to countless factors outside the driver’s control.
Hell, Uber is such a stupid concept that I can’t even begin to feel sorry for that ship of fools.
I don’t care how much lipstick you put on that pig, IT STILL AIN’T TECH; that includes driverless cars. It’s the automotive maintenance, repair & taxi business.
Replacing water pumps, changing oil & taking drunks home late at night just isn’t scalable.
Uber may be targeting that “next generation” that Adam Smith Enginer posits, above. The next generation doesn’t – as much – want to own a car.
If Uber can be the “motor pool” of the neighborhood, that is a potentially very big market, and the development of that market will offer many other uses of the underlying assets…such as package delivery, local-loop warehousing, so forth.
I’m not following Uber closely, so I’m not sure what management’s short-range strategy is, but whatever it is, there are surely some big long-term possibilities for Uber, or a Uber-alike.
More broadly, it’s fun to ridicule the “unicorns” with their “ridiculous” valuations, and so forth. Think how viciously derided Central and Union Pacific were, and Ford in the early years, and so forth. People were outraged at Amazon’s share price the entire time it was taking over and stomping the lights out of all-other-retail.
The company that secures significant market share in electric cars, in driverless vehicles, in motor-pool, in homes-that-double-as-production-centers will do very well, maybe almost as well as Amazon.
And those unicorn-births are enabled by firehoses of cash. That’s probably the singular (potential) good-effect of Centralized Winner-picking: it enables the Unicorn-of-Great-Favor to successfully buy market share and create fundamental change.
Last point: the fire-hose of cash into the Frack business lowered the cost of energy to the U.S., including all “losses” made by the Frack companies. Add in knock-on effects of all that payroll and manufacturing, and you’ve got a great, great investment at the social-policy level for the U.S.
Environmental effect of Frack: terrible toll. But the environment is always valued least. Till it fails.
I realize hope springs eternal, and I’ll concede it’s possible (but not probable) that Uber ends up doing exactly what you say.
The strongest factor working against UBER is the sheer unmitigated and continually demonstrated stupidity of its management, and their insistence that UBER (and Uber Eats) is a scalable “tech” business.
If your business plan is to gain a monopoly and jack up prices, that won’t work either (ask Standard Oil & AT&T).
In capitalist systems, the way to keep score is financial performance over a reasonably representative period of time. Uber is now 11 years old and has lost over $16 billion.
I don’t understand enough about the oil/fracking business to make cogent financial comments, but my instinct is to view it in somewhat the same light (poorly managed) as UBER.
Oh what a tangled web we weave.
And tomorrow will we have learned the lessons of today?
History would not support that supposition.
The Softbank Vision Fund has an unusual structure that funds its $100 billion pool with approximately $60 billion in equity, and $40 billion in debt, where Softbank has committed approximately $28 billion of this equity.
So a $16.6 billion write-down by only Softbank, which is attributed to the Vision Fund, suggests a 59.3% loss of the Vision Funds equity (16.6 billion ÷ 28 billion). And this 59.3% loss of Vision Funds equity suggests Saudi Arabia’s $17 billion equity stake has lost $10.1 billion, and Abu Dhabi’s $5.7 billion equity stake has lost $3.5 billion. Who knows what these losses mean for the 7% annual coupon Vision Fund investors expect to receive for their debt stake.
My guess is this is just the beginning of many severe write-downs of the Vision Funds portfolio of companies.
I thought Saudia Arabia’s investment was around $40B; you seem to understand their financials better than my hear-say; I defer to you numbers. I think we’re both describing the same slow-motion train wreck.
You intuition about the size of their investment is correct. Saudi Arabia’s total investment in Vision Fund is $45 billion. This breaks down to a $17 billion equity investment, plus a $28 billion debt investment that receives a 7% annual coupon over the fund’s 12-year life cycle.
My above assumes the $16.6 billion write-down hits just their equity stake.
The stunning thing is, until the WeWork cow-pie spontaneously combusted, Softbank was reasonably far along in creating a second $100B Softbank investment fund.
Don’t know current status, but doubt it’s achieved lift-off.
Look at the 82 companies in the Vision Fund. They are all unique dumpster fires. I am curious if anyone thinks any of these survive the next 24 months without Sensei Masa’s buybacks that have evaporated.
I wouldn’t say they are all “dumpster fires”: some of those companies actually have some merit to them but none of them has a unique technology or aims to be the first to serve an untapped market. And they are up against a myriad of competitors as good or better than them.
Which leads us to Softbank’s biggest asset and issue at the same time: Masayoshi Son.
Mr Son is an amazing businessman: he was the first to see Japan was fed up with the crummy Internet services at extortionate prices delivered by the old telecoms and managed to turn that vision into a veritable hi-tech empire. He was also one of the first to understand the original iPhone would change the mobile market and jumped on it.
Which leads us to Mr Son’s fatal weakness: he has a veritable soft spot for people who remind him of himself when he was younger or of Steve Jobs, his personal hero. Problem is he is a terrible judge of character.
Alex Garden got over $300 million in seed money for Zume merely by meeting Mr Son and talking to him for a couple of hours. Garden has said time and time again that Son praised him to no end and said “he would change the world”. With a pizza delivery service? It had better be the best pizza in the universe, and I don’t even like the stuff.
The problem is Mr Garden has proven himself to be no Masayoshi Son nor Steve Jobs. His leadership at Zume has been poor and inconsistent, so much his business partner asked, and obtained, to be bought out. When the company needed him the most he started to take longer and longer leaves of absence: the professional executives he had hired at high prices sniffed the air and scrambled for the exits. The best employees joined in the exodus, and in the end Zume was left an empty shell of a company.
At least there was none of the excesses associated with WeWork.
Son also stumbled into billions of profits resulting from his AliBaBa investment.
It is amazing to watch guys like this do one unbelievably risky thing after another, especially without a net. While the show goes on, you begin to doubt your ability to distinguish brilliance from sheer stupidity.
However, when it comes tumbling down, everybody says “Yea; I knew it was crap all along”.
Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan.
“SoftBank Group said that it would book a loss of $16.7 billion”
I am not an accountant but how does any of this make sense?
The US government burns through that much money in one to two weeks tops.
To create an accurate picture, corparate profit and losses need to be reported within the greater debt structure of the US Government.
Is a 16 billion loss even worth mentioning?
You’re a liberal arts major, aren’t you?
Ha ha ha……
Hey, JC, don’t blame the liberal arts. I have a useless degree and I understood that to be gibberish too — we’re supposed to learn how to think critically, not just weave baskets.
Clete-spot on, thank you. I suspect, sadly, that the American expectation that college should be nothing more than a career ticket-punching machine has been in the ascendant for some time, leading to ridicule and shunning of the liberal arts (and just where ARE the ‘conservative’ arts-Kitten, weigh in here, please).
In senior seminar around 1980 (Geography, my major), conducted by prickly Dept. head ol’ Doc Frazier, we were asked what we were doing at University. Overwhelming response something like: ‘…learning Geography, ultimately to use our understanding of the world as the home of humanity for the general improvement and secure employment to that end…’ (ah, the idealism of relative youth).
‘Wrong!’, he replied. You’re here to learn how to THINK effectively. Your chosen future and career, if tied only to your major’s sheepskin, and I mean ANY major, can change-or even vanish-overnight. If you learn to THINK, however, critically and effectively, you will always have resilience in the face of those changes. Now, what IS Geography?’ (an inside joke well-known to any Geographers here).
As it turned out, I never worked in a career-specific Geographic field, but I used, and still use, what I learned there (the broad base of knowledge about the planet and the thought processes involved in better understanding it) every single day. My life has been infinitely richer (not necessarily in a financial sense, though it’s helped) for it. Clete, I’m sure we’re not alone, here.
Stay well, everyone, and-
may we all find a better day.
Whenever I see a well-intentioned commenter’s confusion, I always remind myself that it takes ALL kinds to make the world go round.
You have people (like Wolf) that can process and compute high levels of math, statistics & data. Then you have people that can create a single piece of art work (or novel or poem or dance performance or theater) that makes people have a visceral reaction- makes your heart beat faster, your breath catch in your chest, and makes you want to change the whole trajectory of your life. (Not to say the data-lovers cant be creative & the artistic can’t use logic & math). But I want to live in a world with Wolfs AND arts/humanities.
Maybe that poster wanted a comparison on how “big” of a loss that is when compared to other amounts spent/lost elsewhere in government, so maybe it’s NBD?
It all sounds like a lot to me, either way!
A few more people with history degrees might keep us from occupying the next Afghanistan or Vietnam. Imperial overreach means our great grandchildren may be poor.
OC Girl and Ed: double-check and bless you.
Wolf, this is one of the most informative – and absolutely the most hilarious -column you’ve ever written! Thank heavens I was sitting down and had not had a beer for a couple of hours before I started on this missive. I never realized just how enormously funny it could be to read about how a bunch of Keystone coppers could burn through$18b in cash in their relentless efforts to underperform the market. Go team!!
I wonder how the woes of Softbank will affect ARM ? Will ARM cut R&D because its master needs cash ? Softbank owns ARM and most cellphone CPUs are based on ARM’s technology …
If my memory isn’t plying tricks, didn’t Softbank pay somewhere around $30 billion when they bought ARM ?
Nothing a little softbank fire sale cant solve :P
That link is hilarious! Halt and Catch Fire – wash, rinse and keep repeating….
“But those paper gains were fun while they lasted.”
Now there is a bumper sticker!
Like the post oil boom, any oil boom, bumper sticker: please Lord give us one more boom, “I promise not to ..iss it all away this time”.
Cover rust on a lot of pickup truck bumpers, in 1980, 1990…erc
Just to change the subject from loss to profit….here in the UK Gold hit its real highest level ever ever ever, against the pound of £1375 an ounce. I looked at the graph for prices since March 1970 and gold has gone up over 180% a year since then….or over 9350% over the 50 years….. I feel a smile coming on..
oh dollar gain is 4840% over 50 years…or 96% a year….still very good….
looks like a profit for some people….
I have been in gold more than 50 years and I have never seen those kind of gains you speak of!
Whatever you are smoking, it must be really, really good stuff!
I’ve applied for a checking account at SoftBank.
NASDAQ is out of bear territory this morning.
Laissez les bonnes temps rouler, mes ami.
I’m so glad you’re partying and having a great time while 25 million people have been and are getting laid off.
Unemployed with $5-6K a month UE benefits, plus $2500 stimulus check per family. Not the end of the world.
And yes I am partying because I was proven correct when I said this hysteria would be short lived. The bear market lasted what 3 weeks? Pretty darn short lived.
And no health insurance. Short lived indeed.
Saying the stocks went up because “this hysteria would be short lived” isn’t the reason the stocks went up, and exited bear territory.
The reason the Fed showed stocks with trillions in free money.
Without all that Fed free money, doubt there would have been this rally.
Wall Street is so out of alignment from Main Street right now. The Fed has done a great job re-inflating everything but that will just make the final payment worse. Don’t party too long.
I don’t think anyone is getting the Federal UE benefits yet, and many states (like AZ) will only be giving you about $1K/month MAX (before taxes) so that $5-6K a month is only possible, IF you qualify for max benefits, in about 10 states.
Median will be about $4200 when the Federal kicks in. Not a bad haul especially for a dual income household if both are laid off…depending on where you live…and what your monthly obligations are.
But… but… isn’t this why the NY Fed began mainlining helicopter money into Wall Street months before the pandemic made itself evident? Why, next thing you know they’ll be branching out from buying junk bonds to buy stawks. Suspect the self-appointed and well-connected few will continue to live large while American families line up at food banks.
Wolf, I think if you explore softbank you should go short.
Softbanks can avalanche and being short might save your ass.
While we are talking about possibilities or probabilities;
what’s the possibility that we will blame China for the virus, sue them, and attach all their US dollar securities in the USA?
That will be more of a shock than Softbank.
“Sovereign immunity.” Look it up.
So all this Chinese or Wuhan virus talk is nonsense?
So the Florida class action suit is just a stunt?
Why all this noise then?
You might be able to get a civil judgment in a state court against “China.”
Good luck collecting on that judgment.
Tell that to Iran.
You mean all the Iranians who sued the American government after it shot down the civilian jetliner over the Gulf in Iranian airspace?
They have a judgment from an Iranian court against “the USA,” and Washington hasn’t paid them a penny, decades later.
Jim Rickards already went there. I am inclined to think that since he works for sea-eye-a, sometimes he talks their book. (and they supply the material for his) Rickard’s usually writes his narratives at level one, and most of us are already at level two, (50/50 US did it, and tried to blame Sino bloc nation, a false flag). The real internet outliers are level three and beyond; opposition party asked Sino bloc to help them defeat incumbent, and support their not-a- capitalist candidate, who was himself unelectable, and for which they needed a dark horse. Now to see if we tripped any of the algorithms.
Imagine if SoftBank had plowed that $18 billion in losses into Sprint and building out Sprint’s network, instead of blowing it on permanent cash burners like OYO and WeWork.
Instead, one of the few viable businesses they had, they offloaded to Deutsche Telekom at a loss after discovering that running a real business is “hard.” And DT will be using all that Sprint bandwidth and customer base to build a world-class company that could have been under SoftBank if its executives had a modicum of a clue.
Softbank’s business plan NEVER included actually operating any of their portfolio companies, much less, actually making them profitable.
Softbank’s business plan aggressively over-funded portfolio companies to grow them exponentially & crowd out embryonic competitors. Then IPO them to “investors” (AKA: greater fools), netting Softbank billions in profits.
Post-IPO investors & managers assumed the risk of figuring out how to make those turkeys profitable.
ps: WeWork was an exception. Softbank had to continue funding and take over (ie operate) WeWork to salvage any possibility of recouping Softbank’s previous massive ($20B?) venture capital investment
And then there is Tessssla. Just continues to roll along. I’m still thinking there is a grander plan to get the US Govt to buy the whole Elon pile to have SpaceX become the backbone of the Space Force…….LoL LoL LoL
Tesla’s stock has more than doubled in less than a month. It’s up big year to date. Short sellers and naysayers are being pistol whipped by this luxury EV pioneering juggernaut..
Covid 19 is clearly not their problem. Maybe it’s giving them a tailwind similar to Amazon grocery.
Dear Tesla haters:
Which would you rather have:
o $39,990 Tesla S
– stylish car
– 0-60mph <3 sec
– range on one charge: 348-391 miles
o $36,620 Chevy Bolt
– butt-ugly car
– 0-60mph "under 7 sec"
– range on one charge: 238 miles
Who cares about 0-60 anymore? For lots of people what matters are practical considerations, such as how much room it has in the back, how high the driver sits (hence the preference for SUVs and compact SUVs), etc.
“Butt-ugly” is your thing. I kind of like the Bolt. I’d never buy a Model 3. What would I do with a car like that?
You and I probably should agree to disagree on this one.
The beauty of a market is hundreds of thousands of arms-length buying decisions actually define the market. In 2019, 221,000 Tesla 3s were sold. and only 16,400 Chevy bolts.
Those sales numbers are powerful anecdotal evidence that many appear to care about 0-60 & styling.
On the other hand, total domestic EV sales far exceeded Tesla 3 sales.
Different strokes for different folks.
Yes, but Chevy never intended to make many Bolts, and never made many of them. Like Tesla, it’s losing money on each one, but unlike Tesla, it cannot afford to lose money on each car. The Bolt was just a car to get a feel for manufacturing processes, supply chains, battery issues, warranty issues, dealer training, etc., in preparation for a larger rollout of more vehicles and models when it can actually make money on EVs. Only Tesla can afford to lose money on each car it makes.
Tech guys are getting laid off. Tech job openings are getting flooded with applicants. The bay area economy was being driven by tons of start ups building useless junk. Softbank called that junk “investments”. Glad that is over.
Those tech guys were propping up your precious RE. Not sure why you would be cheering their demise.
Because that high RE was damaging with a negative wealth effect. Be smart in analysis.
Most of the useless unicorns in BA , tech guys would be let go over time.
Not to be perverse but how exactly is a zero revenue company impacted in a zero revenue economy? With Uber-low interest rates, and Fed buying ETFs to prop up the corporate bond market? These guys might be the cleanest dirty shirt. Losing money means nothing here right? Probably the biggest threat to them would be new investor funds funneling back into a single index or two. Don’t see that yet, although Melt-Up II is underway. Hey it is all the Fed knows how to do.
Buying ETF’s does nothing for the corporate bond market. This post represents everything wrong with this board. ETF’s are basically nothing.
Only the primary dealers can buy corporate bonds and sheeet,they sure have not.
I think you meant “zero income”, not “zero revenue”:
o Revenue is all cash/funds a company receives over a period of time (sales, gifts, donations, venture capital investments, et al)
o Income (or profits) is what’s left over when all expenses (cost of goods sold, overhead, taxes, et al) are subtracted from revenue
I use revenue because it gives me apples to apples when comparing corporate to government finance. Income is money that started as revenue. I assume a lot of business is without revenue, though income can be generated through low cost borrowing? I recall once when Alcoa had a bang up quarter, they closed their plant in Washington and sold the electricity they had contracted back to the market at a huge profit.
You appear to be conflating (at least) three separate concepts: revenue, income and cash flow.
o “Low cost borrowing” is strictly a Balance Sheet transaction; you book a liability (obligation to repay the low cost loan) and an off-setting asset (cash). This does indeed increase “cash flow” but loan proceeds don’t directly flow thru the Income Statement as “revenue” or “income”. When cash is employed to produce & sell a product, you’re back to dealing with revenue & income
o Revenue & income are Income Statement creatures. Technically, there are exceptions (eg: deferred ernment does not follow GAAP; public (but not private) corporations are required to follow GAAP; revenue), that are Balance Sheet items, but probably outside the scope of what we’re discussing
My very humble recommendation: if possible, start with cash accounting for your analysis. Federal government does not use GAAP; all US public corporations (but not private) are required to use GAAP; all states voluntarily use GAAP; most local governments do not use GAAP.
Second bullet item should have read:
o Revenue & income are Income Statement creatures. Technically, there are exceptions (eg: deferred income), that are Balance Sheet items, but probably outside the scope of what we’re discussing
My guess is that revenue, as it was, contributed a fair share of cash to burn heavily supplemented by investor cash.
Now, all prior sources of cash, revenues, investors, and SoftBank, have dried up.
Question is, how long will the existing cash pile last before they have to stop paying everything…..aka… they shut down.
I guess we will see.
This was one that was imploding before the Covid 19 thing really took off and was since last fall. With real final demand stagnate, subprime commercial banks pulling back lending, I do wonder if that was the end. There would have been a run on equities later in 2020 anyway then.
Besides the Vision Fund fake valuations, Reuters has just reported that Saudi Aramco is negotiating a $10billion loan in USD, probably from US banks. The cartel from Saudi Arabia will ultimately just crash the USD to replace USD. The growth in 50 years in Dubai has been at the loss and decay here. The last level of enslavement is no mobility at all. The Covid19 will accomplish that task royally. As the Saudi’s glean everything from the US, through sponsoring of IPO funding and venture funds as strategic cash burners the final result is the successful enslavement of US citizens. Population effectively bought for pennies and fleeced.