Connect with us

Business

SoftBank’s Big Bet on Sharing Economy Backfires With Coronavirus

Published

on


(Bloomberg) — Masayoshi Son has been among the most fervent believers in the sharing economy, investing billions in startups that help people split the use of cars, rooms and offices. But as the coronavirus curtails unnecessary human interaction, it’s hammering such businesses and rattling the foundations of Son’s SoftBank Group Corp.In New York City, the co-working space of SoftBank-backed WeWork stands practically empty as tenants stay home for fear of infection. In Shanghai, drivers for the ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing have seen their pay plummet as customers avoid shared automobiles. In San Francisco, Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., another SoftBank investment, said “I wouldn’t put my kids in an Uber.”Investors are increasingly spooked about the stability of Son’s empire and its $100 billion Vision Fund amid the pandemic. Before this week, SoftBank shares had tumbled about 50% in a single month, including their worst one-day decline since the Japanese billionaire listed his company in 1994. In response, the SoftBank impresario launched one of the most audacious deals of his career: sell part of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and other assets to raise $41 billion to buy back shares and slash debt.While that envisioned deal put a floor under the share price, it hasn’t changed the fundamental vulnerability of an edifice built on sharing-economy standouts that’ve been walloped since sheltering in place became the norm. SoftBank gained more than 40% since Son revealed that blueprint, which is said to include unloading $14 billion of Alibaba stock for starters. But it remains down about 30% from a February peak. In fact, Moody’s Corp. questioned the wisdom of selling prized assets into a market downturn and pushed SoftBank’s debt deeper into junk territory. SoftBank fired back by accusing Moody’s of bias.“Right now, investments sensitive to sharing and the economy are not where you want to be, with the pandemic encouraging a stay-at-home mentality,” said Pelham Smithers, whose London-based firm offers research on Asian technology companies, in a note to clients. Companies such as WeWork, Uber and the hotel-booking Oyo “weren’t profitable when times were (relatively) good, begging the question, what will their economics look like in 2020?”Read more: Masa Son Unveils a $41 Billion Asset Sale to Silence His CriticsDespite the stock bounce, SoftBank’s credit default swaps — the cost of insuring debt against default — are still near their highest levels in a decade. The concern isn’t so much that the Japanese giant won’t be able to pay its own debts — its cash will cover money due for at least the next two years. Rather, investors fret that Son’s 80-plus portfolio companies will struggle in the current environment, triggering negative headlines and massive writedowns.Most worrisome for investors, Son — who saw $70 billion wiped from his net worth in the dot-com crash — may feel compelled to step in to support some of his startups rather than see them fail. The litany of woes surrounding SoftBank’s highest-profile startups threatens to tarnish Son’s reputation as a tech investor — one built largely on an early bet on Alibaba before it came to dominate Chinese e-commerce, which he’s struggled to replicate.Last year, after WeWork’s effort to go public fell apart, SoftBank stepped in to organize a $9.5 billion bailout. Son had to choose between financial aid or bankruptcy, at a time when risk aversion is straining global tech investment.“SoftBank frustrated investors already with its assistance to WeWork last year,” said Makoto Kikuchi, chief investment officer at Myojo Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “SoftBank owns many investments such as tech companies that get hit particularly in this situation.”SoftBank and Vision Fund representatives declined to comment for the story.Read more: SoftBank Blasts Moody’s for ‘Biased’ Ratings DowngradeSon did vow he wouldn’t step in to rescue any more portfolio companies after WeWork and called for more financial discipline. Among SoftBank startups, Brandless Inc. said in February it would close down while satellite operator OneWeb is mulling a possible bankruptcy filing.“It’s unlikely that SoftBank portfolio companies will see any of that money, because the announcement was pretty clear on the purpose of the asset sale,” said Justin Tang at United First Partners. “In fact, it would be an opportune time for SoftBank to get rid of its weaker portfolio companies and stick with the leaders.”On Wednesday, Moody’s said it will watch SoftBank and the extent to which tumbling valuations will hurt its tech-heavy portfolio. Son’s biggest bet to date has been on ride-hailing, with stakes in Uber and the leading companies in China, India and Southeast Asia. The latest to exhibit signs of trouble was European player Getaround, which is now said to be dangerously short of cash and actively seeking a buyer.Beijing-based Didi Chuxing is another prime example of how the virus is walloping these operations. The startup, once tagged at $56 billion, had struggled to justify its valuation even before the latest crisis because of a government crackdown on its services. Ridership tumbled during the outbreak in China and Didi cut driver subsidies.Sheng Gang, a 34-year-old Shanghai resident, said he used to earn a 36 yuan ($5) bonus for every four rides during the morning rush hour; now that’s been lowered to just 6 yuan for every three. He expects his income to drop by about half this month to around 10,000 yuan.“I don’t have a Plan B since I just bought a new car,” Sheng said.Wen Peng, a 35-year-old Hebei native, earned around 6,000 yuan a month as a part-time driver. But when the coronavirus hit, most people chose to stay inside and he couldn’t sustain himself. He quit in February.“People didn’t leave their homes, almost no one wanted rides,” he said. “Many others quit for similar reasons.”A Didi spokeswoman said ridership has rebounded significantly in recent weeks as people went back to work.Read more: WeWork’s New Crisis: ‘Workplaces Will Never Be the Same’WeWork is another question mark: SoftBank is said to be considering scaling back its bailout. WeWork has kept its offices open despite the virus, even while other co-working operators have closed them. That may be because revenue would disappear otherwise, just as SoftBank is trying to engineer a turnaround.One executive who usually uses a WeWork office on Park Avenue in New York said hardly anyone shows up anymore. His WeWork representative has stopped coming to the site and works remotely. He figures customers may be canceling their leases or simply not paying, which would leave WeWork on the hook for rent owed to the landlord, Tishman Speyer. “None of us are going to the office,” he said. “But we’ve decided for now to just kick any decisions down the road for six months.”Then there’s Oyo, which is in a particularly tricky spot. The Indian company has been expanding rapidly by guaranteeing a certain amount of revenue to hotels if they sign on as franchisees. But with few travelers anywhere, Oyo has to pay hotels even when their rooms are mostly empty.At the Kawasaki Hotel Park in Japan, more than 400 reservations were canceled for February to April. The result was a drop in revenue of about 25 million yen ($226,000), according to Sanho Miyamoto, the owner.“Overseas customers disappeared and Japanese businessmen halted business trips. I had to ask our employees to take a vacation for a while,“ Miyamoto said. “I am worried whether Oyo can manage because it guarantees the revenue fall for its members.”He wouldn’t comment on arrangements with Oyo. But if the startup paid the entire shortfall, it would lose about $240,000 on a single hotel.Read more: Masayoshi Son’s Other Big Real Estate Bet Has Some Real ProblemThere’s opportunity in the downturn too. SoftBank-backed Slack Technologies Inc., a popular work communications tool among home workers, has surged following lockdowns from New York to California. And after a difficult first year in Japan, Oyo has turned to promising cash for hotels that join its platform as bookings plunged. While the company didn’t say how much it was prepared to spend, that kind of opportunism can only shorten its runway of available cash.Investors fear that companies like Oyo have become too big to fail for SoftBank, Atul Goyal, senior analyst at Jefferies Group, wrote in a report. The WeWork rescue showed that “zero is not a floor” for any SoftBank investment and that Son is willing to throw more good money after bad, he wrote.SoftBank may soon prove Goyal right. The company is seeking to raise an additional $10 billion so its first Vision Fund can support portfolio companies, according to people with knowledge of the matter. And the list of SoftBank portfolio firms that may soon need help also includes gym company Gympass, Getaround and travel startups Klook and GetYourRide.“These startups are geared for high growth and high cash burn,” Goyal said. “As revenues fall, they will need further infusions of capital to keep the lights on.”Read more: SoftBank Seeks $10 Billion to Support Vision Fund CompaniesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

U.S. Futures Fluctuate, Stocks Slip; Dollar Jumps: Markets Wrap

Published

on


(Bloomberg) — U.S. equity futures fluctuated and stocks slipped on Monday as investors weighed a weekend full of negative coronavirus news against the stimulus measures that triggered a bounce in risk assets last week. The dollar rebounded, Treasuries edged higher and oil sank.Contracts on the S&P 500 Index swung between losses and gains after President Donald Trump abruptly abandoned his ambition to return American life to normal by Easter. Abbott Laboratories surged in the pre-market after unveiling a five-minute coronavirus test. Shares in Europe followed earlier declines across much of Asia, though they came off their lows. The dollar was on course to snap a four-session losing streak.Core European bonds rose after the outbreak killed more than 3,000 in Spain and Italy over the weekend. Pessimism returned to credit markets, where the cost to insure high-yield debt jumped in both Asia and Europe, as Moscow and Tokyo joined other cities urging residents to remain at home. Brent crude extended recent losses and was set for its worst month in history, down about 54%.Investors are beginning the week digesting word that the biggest economy will stay crippled for longer after Trump heeded advice from the government’s top doctors that re-opening the U.S. in two weeks risks greater loss of life as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates. The president said in a news conference “social distancing” guidelines would remain until at least April 30, while his top infectious-disease expert said 100,000-200,000 may die.“Markets are still in uncharted territory,” said Medha Samant, director of investment at Fidelity International. “When you look at the stages of this pandemic, you’ve gone into escalation,” she said. “The epicenter has shifted to the U.S.”In the latest stimulus moves, China’s central bank lowered short-term funding rates and injected cash into its financial system, Australia announced a job-support program and limited public gatherings to just two people, while Singapore unveiled an unprecedented easing in policy.“The assumption that we can turn a switch in a month or two and everything is going to be okay is a faulty opinion,” David Kotok, chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors Inc., told Bloomberg TV. “We are waiting to see the closer timetable of treatment, testing, and vaccine — that’s very important to us.”Elsewhere, Australian shares were the notable exception to broad declines, with the equity benchmark surging by a record thanks to the new stimulus measures. Emerging currencies including South Africa’s rand and Mexico’s peso tumbled amid concern about debt downgrades.Quarter-end strains could add to investor nervousness on Monday and Tuesday as financial firms rein in collateral lending to shore up balance sheets, while Japanese banks face their fiscal year-end. The MSCI gauge of global equities is down about 23% since the start of the year, on course for its worst quarter since the end of 2008.These are the main moves in markets:StocksFutures on the S&P 500 Index advanced 0.4% as of 12:27 p.m. London time.The Stoxx Europe 600 Index decreased 0.8%.The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dipped 0.9%.CurrenciesThe Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index jumped 0.7%.The euro declined 0.8% to $1.1048.The British pound decreased 0.5% to $1.2398.The Japanese yen fell 0.1% to 108.06 per dollar.BondsThe yield on 10-year Treasuries decreased two basis points to 0.66%.Germany’s 10-year yield decreased six basis points to -0.53%.Britain’s 10-year yield declined six basis points to 0.305%.CommoditiesGold fell 0.1% to $1,625.72 an ounce.West Texas Intermediate crude decreased 5.2% to $20.39 a barrel.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Business

Finding a middle ground to tackle the coronavirus crisis

Published

on


Good morning.

President Trump’s talk of reopening the economy on Easter, which he has now backed off of, has helped launched an important debate. At the moment, we seem stuck between two unrealistic alternatives: 1) a quick return to work, or 2) a widespread lockdown until a vaccine is ready (a year or more in the future). Both alternatives could lead to social and economic breakdown. But no one has articulated a clear vision for what the reasonable middle ground would look like.

What might it look like? The elements of a possible strategy are beginning to emerge. It will probably involve a nationwide lockdown that lasts at least through the end of May. Then, the return to work needs to roll out gradually, and include the following elements: continued protection/isolation for vulnerable populations; continued restrictions on large gatherings; increased production of protective equipment and ventilators; some proven therapies for treating the most vulnerable; priority given to those who can’t work from home over those who can; staggered start times to minimize rush hour crowding; widespread and rapid testing so new infections can be spotted quickly; sharp restrictions on travel so new infections can be isolated and contained; and antibody testing so immune individuals can be identified. The world should be watching China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea as they probe the parameters of such an effort—even though more democratic societies will struggle to mimic many of their less democratic tactics.

Government needs to lead this effort; but business plays a critical role.   Fortune will be holding a virtual gathering of members of its CEO Initiative tomorrow, to begin a conversation on this topic. I’ll have more to report on Wednesday.

In the meantime, former Honeywell CEO Dave Cote—who successfully navigated the Great Recession and added $60 billion to his company’s market value before stepping down in 2017—has some advice for CEOs in the midst of this crisis.  You can read the full interview here, but some excerpts:

Focus on leadership, not consensus. “What matters is getting feedback from all your people, then making a decision.”

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. “Pick a plan and start executing as if you expect the worst to happen.”

Keep workers around for the recovery. In the recession “we did very few layoffs… Instead, we relied on furloughs.”

—In a crisis, don’t take a bonus. “When workers asked me if I intended to take a bonus for 2009, I’d say that was up to the board… That was a big mistake.”

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Business

Kumu’s KC Montero on creating quality online content

Published

on


Earlier this year, KC Montero took on the role of Head of Content at KUMU, the fastest-growing social media app in the country.

Perhaps best known as MTV’s longest-running VJ, KC’s career includes billings as host and producer on a number of shows like Celebrity Car Wars, Survivor Philippines, Discovery Channel’s Worst Vacation Ever, and GOOD TIMES on Magic 89.9. While KC’s star power and marketing talent are undeniable, what helps KC perform in the boardroom is his unique brand of creativity that ensures content on the app stays relevant to a young mobile audience.

As KUMU’s head of content, KC often gets asked, “what is good content?” It’s a question he thinks is fundamentally misguided.

“The term “good content’ can be used in such a broad sense,” he said. “Some would say that if you can watch a piece of content from start to finish, that it should be considered good content. That isn’t totally true because what’s inside that content can captivate you and keep your attention for three minutes but it doesn’t mean, to me, that it’s any good.”

KC believes audiences today want more than just flashy visuals, catchy wordplay, and a coherent aesthetic. What they’re looking for, he says, is something that makes them feel good about themselves.

“I like to use the phrase “quality content” which means that it’s thought-provoking, entertaining, and leaves you with a positive feeling,” KC said. This triumvirate guides every bit of programming KC oversees at KUMU, from the messaging to the technical executions—everything is designed to maximize quality.

The KC recipe for effective content

KC shares these three useful insights to aspiring content creators on how to keep things creative, dynamic, and worth sharing:

  • If it’s a long video, make sure you show a quick look at what happens in the video right away. You have to grab attention as fast as possible.
  • Get close. The closer the subject is, the closer the audience feels, but don’t overdo it. No one wants to see your pores.
  • Know your audience. Know what makes them tick and play into their wheelhouse.

Pushing innovative technology

More than any other device in history, smartphones are the most immediate, on-demand platforms for content consumption. With livestreaming, the bridge between consumption and creation has narrowed nearly to non-existence.

For the team at KUMU, it’s an inmate understanding of the relationships between platform, product, and people that guide their growth into everything from arts to online marketplaces.

This formula proves to be effective as KUMU now engages more than three million Filipinos around the world with its online contests, game shows, celebrity live streams, live e-commerce, and just recently audio streaming features.

“I think that content is really only bound by technology and how it’s delivered,” KC said. “I think at the moment, we’re on the cusp of an e-commerce boom and the faster and closer you can get to humanizing your process the more success you will have.”



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Trending