Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive of the Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank, warned at a DealBook conference on Tuesday that he was preparing for “the worst case scenario” as virus cases increase around the world.
“In the short run, I’m pessimistic,” Mr. Son said during an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times DealBook Online Summit.
“It’s still increasing, the second wave or third wave of Covid-19 around the world,” he said, speaking by video from Tokyo. “Of course, the vaccine is coming, the antibodies, but who knows, in the next two, three months, any disaster could happen, so we’re just preparing for the worst case scenario.”
SoftBank has been aggressively selling assets to increase cash on hand, which he said could be used to purchase undervalued assets or buy back SoftBank stock.
“Cash is very important in this kind of crisis,” Mr. Son said.
Elaborating on possible scenarios, Mr. Son said a major company could crash and cause a domino-effect disaster, like the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers did, before a vaccine is widely distributed.
“I think it’s getting better with the news of the vaccine’s success, but I still want to be prepared,” he said.
In March, Mr. Son broke a three-year Twitter silence when he wrote, “I’m worried about the situation of the new coronavirus.”
At the time, he told Mr. Sorkin, he saw the possibility of an economic crisis that could affect “many people’s jobs, many people’s health, life” and could be devastating for start-ups that lacked the funds to make it through.
Mr. Son now runs the largest private testing facility in Japan. “I was feeling this could be something much bigger than people may think,” he told Mr. Sorkin.