Japan’s SoftBank has been on a global spending spree in recent months, in particular in autumn of last year when the mobile giant invested almost USD$1 billion in the space of just six weeks into companies outside of Japan. Maverick CEO Masayoshi Son spearheaded the series of investments after having told investors at an earnings presentation that he wanted SoftBank to become like the goose that laid the golden egg.
Golden Egg Investments
Working on predictions that India and China will become the top two economies over the next few decades, SoftBank invested approximately a billion US dollars in companies in those two regions over a short space of time and has announced plans to sink as much as $10 billion in Indian enterprises over the next ten years. The largest investment from the November spree was the $627 million for Indian online shopping portal Snapdeal. Son pointed to the huge success of SoftBank’s investment in Chinese shopping portal Alibaba as inspiration for this, noting that the $20 million share purchased in 2000 was valued at around $86 billion in September of last year. SoftBank has also invested $460 million in two taxi apps – GrabTaxi and Ola – and $7 million in Altaeros Energies. Altaeros is an MIT spin-off designing kite-like airborne wind turbines. While in the grand scheme of things this investment is relatively small, a spokesman for SoftBank stated that it would likely open up further opportunities. The devices, which generate more than double the amount of electricity of similar sized turbines on the ground and stay aloft at approximately 2,000 feet, have the potential to lift other equipment such as telecommunications into the skies. This potential for combining with telecommunications or surveillance technology could be the beginning of big things for the mobile giant.
SoftBank Capital PrinceVille Investments
The venture arm of SoftBank is also making a series of investments in technology growth-stage businesses through the $250 million PrinceVille Fund. The Fund, managed by a board including Mukesh Valabhji, will be providing between $10 and $20 million to twelve to fifteen companies looking to expand into the Asian market, with focus on areas such as cloud computing, social media, gaming, ecommerce, mobile apps and online advertising. The companies in question will also be able to benefit from the vast network of investors, advisors and vendors under the SoftBank umbrella throughout Asia. Mukesh Valabhji brings a wealth of investment experience to the table, including in telecommunications and media with the Seychelles cable television, VOIP and broadband company Intelvision and in prime commercial real estate, hospitality ventures and trading across the globe.
Under the leadership of Masayoshi Son, SoftBank has been able to announce that net income for the six month period leading up to September 30th 2014 was already up 37% from the same time period the previous year. Some of the most successful investments spearheaded by Son include cumulative investment in internet companies including Yahoo Japan, GungHo video games and UTStarcom telecommunications infrastructure, turning USD$3.2 billion into $96.7 billion. While critics have pointed to the disappointing performance of recently acquired US carrier Sprint Corp, Son remains unruffled, stating that his style of decision making is based on forecasts for the next ten, twenty or even thirty years. The man who introduced the iPhone to Japan has never been afraid of taking risks and this can be seen in the plans to sell Pepper, a ground-breaking robot for domestic communications, for only a similar price to that which you might expect to pay for a high end PC next year. Pepper, developed by Aldebaran Robotics, has been working for the past few months as a retail assistant, helping to sell Nestle coffee machines and the brand new iPhone 6 in Japan.
Masayoshi Son was named 45th in the 2013 list of the World’s Most Powerful People from Forbes Magazine. He has a personal fortune of $13.6 billion, making him the second richest person in Japan, despite having the dubious distinction of being the individual who has lost the largest amount of money in history in 2000, when the dot com crash cost him approximately $70 billion. The maverick CEO is also known for his environmental concerns and philanthropy. After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Son engaged in huge investments in solar panels across Japan and publicly criticized the nuclear industry, while in the wake of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and earthquake Son pledged not only an immediate ten billion yen to support victims but also his own remaining salary until the date of his retirement.
See our next post about Mukesh Valabhji exploring planned SoftBank transformation.