TOKYO— SoftBank Group Corp. is pulling back from an investment unit it set up last year whose bets on publicly traded technology stocks were so large they earned the Japanese investor the nickname “Nasdaq whale.”
The unit, named SB Northstar, had been investing billions of dollars in stocks like Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., sometimes using derivatives called options to increase the size of its bets. For a time, SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son personally directed the trades himself, using a $20 billion pot of cash.
But the unit ended up losing money and was roundly booed by investors. During the fiscal year ended in March, it lost the equivalent of $5.6 billion on its derivatives transactions, according to a SoftBank financial filing. On Wednesday, after SoftBank reported a record $46 billion in profit, Mr. Son told investors on earnings calls that the company would scale back SB Northstar and direct investment firepower instead to SoftBank’s latest startup fund, Vision Fund 2, according to people familiar with the calls.
“The majority of my heart and soul is in the Vision Fund,” Mr. Son said, according to one of those people.
Mr. Son didn’t say how much SoftBank would reduce SB Northstar’s fund size. As of the end of March, the unit was holding nearly $20 billion in stocks including Microsoft Corp. , Facebook and Amazon. It had around $1.6 billion in derivatives tied to roughly $13 billion worth of shares, according to SoftBank filings.