SoftBank Group Corp. and Saudi Arabia formally announced the first round of capital commitments for the largest-ever technology investment fund, as founder Masayoshi Son seeks to accelerate his financing of cutting-edge technologies and startups.
The Vision Fund will allow the billionaire Son to cut even more ambitious deals than he’s been able to do with his highly leveraged company. He has used money from his domestic telecom operations to pay for investments in startups in China, India and the U.S. and for acquisitions of larger companies such as U.K. chipmaker ARM Holdings Plc and U.S. wireless operator Sprint Corp. Now he sees richer opportunities than ever before in areas like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
“SoftBank has long made bold investments in transformative technologies and supported disruptive entrepreneurs,” Son said in the statement. “The SoftBank Vision Fund is consistent with this strategy and will help build and grow businesses creating the foundational platforms of the next stage of the Information Revolution.”
The Vision Fund may take over part of SoftBank’s recent deals. For example, the fund will have the right to acquire 25 percent of SoftBank’s holdings in ARM, OneWeb and the U.S.-based online lender Social Finance Inc. The fund will also be able to buy a quarter of SoftBank’s holding in the U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp., a stake that had not been previously disclosed.
Shares of SoftBank are up about 25 percent since the fund was announced in October, buoyed by the prospects it would ease the strain on the Japanese company’s balance sheet. Son’s appetite for deals has left SoftBank with a record $130 billion debt load, one of the heaviest in Japan.