SoftBank Rolls Out Second Tech Megafund, With Apple Among Top Investors – The Wall Street Journal


TOKYO—

SoftBank Group
Corp.


9984 0.02%

said it would start a second technology megafund and has secured $108 billion in commitments from investors including

Apple
Inc.,


AAPL -0.79%

Japanese banks, Taiwanese investors and Kazakhstan’s sovereign-wealth fund.

SoftBank plans to invest $38 billion of its own capital into the fund, which is a sequel to its nearly $100 billion Vision Fund started in 2017. Besides Apple, investors include the National Investment Corp. of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, Foxconn Technology Group,

Microsoft
Corp.

and Standard Chartered Bank.

Japanese financial institutions, including the nation’s three top banks, will also participate, SoftBank said.

Since its launch in May 2017, the first Vision Fund has gobbled up large stakes in the world’s most valuable startups and rewritten the rules of venture investment. But the company has struggled to gain the backing of institutional investors for large-scale investments in startups that often take years to reach profitability.

If the company is able to secure commitments from other investors, such as the sovereign-wealth fund of Saudi Arabia—the first Vision Fund’s biggest backer—Vision Fund 2 may grow further.

SoftBank will likely raise funds for its contribution to the second Vision Fund by cashing out of holdings in the first Vision Fund, which includes stakes in more than 70 companies, including ride-hailing company

Uber Technologies
Inc.

and co-working space provider WeWork Cos., analysts said. Uber listed its shares this year, while WeWork aims to go public in September, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.

The second Vision Fund plans to invest in artificial intelligence, which SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son has said will benefit from the rising amount of real-world data gathered by sensors, cameras and other machines.

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“The power to predict the future is about to emerge,” Mr. Son said last week at a Tokyo conference SoftBank held for its corporate clients. “The amount of data will grow by a million times over the next 30 years.”

SoftBank’s ability to put money in the second Vision Fund is likely to get a lift from the planned merger between SoftBank-controlled

Sprint
Corp.

and

T-Mobile US
Inc.

The two U.S. cellphone carriers are working on a settlement with the Justice Department that would clear federal objections to their merger, although some states are also trying to block it.

Sprint’s debt of about $40 billion has weighed on SoftBank’s balance sheet. If the merger goes through, SoftBank would have a minority stake in the combined entity and Sprint’s debt would no longer be included on SoftBank’s books, freeing up the Japanese company to take on more risk.

Write to Mayumi Negishi at mayumi.negishi@wsj.com

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