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SoftBank reaps $33 billion Coupang windfall

·2 min read
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By Noor Zainab Hussain and Joshua Franklin

(Reuters) - SoftBank Group Corp on Thursday racked up a roughly $33 billion gain on paper through the public market debut of South Korea's largest e-commerce company, Coupang Inc, the latest sign of a dramatic turnaround for its $100 billion Vision Fund.

Shares of Coupang opened 81% above their offer price on Thursday, after the company raised $4.6 billion in the U.S. stock market's biggest initial public offering this year.

SoftBank paid around $3 billion for a 37% stake in the company, according to sources familiar with earlier fund-raising, giving it a roughly $33 billion headline profit if prices hold.

Coupang's hugely successful stock market launch is welcome news for SoftBank, which is grappling with the collapse of billions of dollars worth of funds linked to Britain's Greensill Capital, a supply chain finance start-up.

Vision Fund is Greensill's biggest backer.

The Japanese conglomerate last month reported third-quarter net profit ballooned more than 20 times thanks to a recovery at the Vision Fund, a huge venture capital operation famous for investing early in Uber and other tech industry startup successes.

Only a year ago, SoftBank had been smarting from the flopped IPO and collapse in value of office sharing firm WeWork, raising questions over whether Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son had lost his midas touch and threatening plans to establish a successor to Vision.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced Son to sell assets but a second deal reported by Reuters on Thursday bodes well for VF II, a second, smaller fund.

The $225 million late-stage funding round for healthcare startup Forward Health was its first major investment this year, following a pickup in activity and the group's fortunes in the second half of 2020.

The Vision Fund also made $11 billion on a blockbuster market launch of DoorDash Inc in December, which valued the food delivery company at more than $70 billion.

It also made gains on home seller Opendoor Technologies Inc's initial offering in December.

The fund still holds large stakes in China's biggest ride-hailing firm Didi, as well as Uber's Southeast Asian rival Grab.

SoftBank is also trying to ride the mania for special purpose acquisition companies, launching a handful of blank-check firms this year, although none of them have found investment targets yet.

SoftBank did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Shounak Dasgupta)