As the world weighs the fallout from the Silicon Valley bank’s collapse, investors are casting wary eyes on SoftBank Group Corp, the startup’s biggest backer and advocate, in several ways.
Masayoshi Son’s investment juggernaut had ploughed more than $140 billion into companies ranging from WeWork to ByteDance Ltd and DoorDash Inc before the economy collapsed as it emerged from the post-pandemic recession. Now, investors are cautiously retreating despite an overnight pledge by US authorities to rescue the US bank, which is at the heart of Silicon Valley’s venture capital ecosystem.
SoftBank, also at the centre of the global venture capital scene, has lost about 7%, or $5 billion, in market value since news of SVB’s troubles broke. Its credit-default swaps surged for a second straight day, fuelling speculation about which assets SoftBank might sell if it needs to help portfolio companies.
Concerns about the fallout from the SVB continued on Monday despite the US pledge to fully protect the funds of all depositors.
SoftBank does not believe the impact of SVB’s failure on its portfolio companies will be significant, a SoftBank spokesman said, adding that the company does not expect to affect its own finances. Most Vision Fund portfolio companies are flush with cash, the firm said on an earnings call last month.
But the collapse of SVB reveals the extent to which rising interest rates can hurt companies and banks that have grown accustomed to years of cheap money. Startups are particularly vulnerable to a systemic decline in confidence because they depend on investors’ confidence in their long-term potential, which can take years to profit.
It is unclear how the crisis will affect fundraising and valuations globally. Some observers point to the risk of other lenders being caught in a vicious cycle. New York regulators put Signature Bank into receivership after SVB, itself following the collapse of crypto-friendly bank Silvergate Capital Corp. WeWork Inc, a long-struggling work-space leasing company, is in talks to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to back the business, a person familiar with the talks said last week.
Venture capital firms have been advising their startups to withdraw any funds they have held in SVB. According to Shenzhen-based investor Warren Zhou, the issue’s impact will be affected to varying degrees. One of his US-based companies has hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited with SVB, and its ability to pay wages has been challenged. He said that others, tough tech startups raising money in yuan, may not feel the impact.
SoftBank may also be forced to back some of its startups against spillovers. That could prompt it to raise cash by selling some of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Marvin Lo and Chris Muckensturm.
SVB bills itself as a one-stop shop for tech entrepreneurs, offering loans, money management services and personal mortgages. It serves more than 40% of the venture-backed technology and healthcare companies that went public last year and is poised for substantial growth going forward. But this bundling of service layers has made it a focal point of risk, with repercussions throughout the financial system supporting some of the world’s greatest ideas.