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SoftBank marked down 284 companies in its portfolio in the latest quarter, while only 35 went up in value. Image Credit: Reuters

SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son said he plans widespread cost cutting at his Japanese conglomerate and its Vision Fund investment arm after a record $23.4 billion loss on plunging portfolio valuations and foreign currency losses.

The Tokyo-based company lost the vast majority of that money - $17.3 billion - in the Vision Fund, as it marked down the value of holdings such as Coupang Inc., SenseTime Group Ltd. and DoorDash Inc. SoftBank also reported a $6.1 billion foreign exchange loss because of the weaker yen.

The 64-year-old struck a darkly somber tone after the results, taking responsibility for buying into startups at the height of the market and pledging to slash expenses to get back on track. Son said he will review “everything” for potential cuts without any “sacred cows”. SoftBank will scrutinise senior and junior employees in both front and back offices to an extent never experienced before.

“The loss is the biggest in our corporate history and we take it very seriously,” Son said during a press conference after the results. “We have to resort to big cost-cutting efforts at Vision Fund. The cost cutting efforts will have to include a reduction in head count - something I’ve made up my mind to do.”

Son detailed extensive problems and missteps in his portfolio, unusual for a self-made billionaire who tends to emphasise the positive. He said SoftBank had marked down 284 companies in its portfolio in the latest quarter, while only 35 went up in value. The markdowns included publicly traded portfolio companies, but also hundreds of private companies whose estimated values had dropped because of weak performance or lower comparisons.

A quarter earlier, SoftBank still had profits of about 3 trillion yen ($22 billion) in its investment arm, which includes the first and second Vision Funds as well as Latin American funds. As of June, essentially all of those profits had disappeared.