As much as $53 billion of the $108 billion that the second instalment of the Vision Fund 2 aims to raise will be funded internally. Softbank, the Japanese company behind the Vision Funds has committed $38 billion of the target itself and will extend loans worth a potential $15 billion to executives working for the fund who are also keen to invest. It has been reported that the sum could be personally funded by Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s founder and CEO.
While a number of high profile investors in the second iteration of the Vision Fund, including Microsoft, Apple and a number of Japanese financial institutions, have already been confirmed, albeit in the form of non-committal memorandums of understanding, some of the biggest investors in the first are notable by their absence.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which was by far the biggest contributor to the first fund doesn’t look like it is keen to get involved again and neither does Abu Dhabi’s. There are reports that both have been unhappy at the valuations at which the Vision Fund invested in several companies, despite the fact that some strong returns have already been realised through the recent IPOs of Uber and corporate messaging app Slack.
While it’s not unusual for fund executives to put their own ‘skin in the game’, by investing, that would normally account for less than 5% of total capital raised. If Vision Fund execs do put in the reported $15 million that would equate to almost 14%. That’s before the 35% Softbank itself is contributing.
However, it doesn’t look like Vision Fund 2 is resorting to funding employee investments because it is struggling to convince external investors. $108 billion is already pledged through memorandums of understanding and Softbank is reportedly still working on convincing the Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds to back Vision Fund 2. Several well-placed sources have suggested the final total raised could be far higher than the $108 billion headline figure.
It could well be that facilitating Vision Fund executives to put their own money into the second fund is at least partly with a view to easing investor concerns that valuations the fund invests at are inflated. Those taking investment decisions having their skin in the game could convince external investors that valuation judgements will not be taken lightly.
The Vision Fund is still struggling to convince traditional investors such as pension and insurance funds. While many of the investors in Vision Fund 2 will be Japanese financial institutions, there involvement is thought to be in the form of preferred equity, which protects them from the downside while still ensuring steady dividend incomes. The direct and preferred equity split that most investors were offered in the first Vision Fund offers a 7% dividend over its 12-year lifespan. A similar arrangement is expected for the Vision Fund 2.
Mayatoshi Son has stated that his target for the Vision Funds is the same 44% annual rate of return Softbank has achieved over the past 20 years. Much of that can be attributed to the investment in Alibaba and it is again likely that the success of the Vision Funds will come down to a small percentage of investments coming spectacularly good while others make small profits, break even or result in a loss. Such is the nature of the beast in private equity and venture capital.
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