SoftBank Group Corp.’s (SFTBF) vision statement says, “The SoftBank Group's aim [is] to contribute to people's happiness through the Information Revolution, and to become 'the corporate group needed most by people around the world.' But simply because just a single company can't invent it all, investing in groundbreaking and revolutionary opportunities is arguably the only feasible way to become the corporate entity needed most by folks around the world. And SoftBank has invested in quite a number of revolutionary opportunities.

SoftBank Vision Fund

Last October, SoftBank announced its intention to establish an investment fund in collaboration with the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or PIF, with the aim of investing in the technology sector globally. The fund announced its first major close of over $93 billion on May 20, with SoftBank committing to invest about $28 billion in the fund. The investment commitments make the Vision Fund the largest technology investment fund in the world. PIF’s investment commitment to the fund wasn’t disclosed, but SoftBank had said when it first announced the establishment of the fund that the PIF would consider investing up to $45 billion in the fund over a five-year period. The iStuff maker Apple Inc. (AAPL​), Taiwan’s electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn, California-based chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM), electronics manufacturer Sharp Corp. and the UAE state-owned holding company Mubadala also committed to invest in the fund.

Of the $28 billion investment commitment by SoftBank, about $8.2 billion would be an in-kind contribution of roughly 25 percent of SoftBank’s stake in the British semiconductor company ARM Holding Plc. SoftBank created the fund to invest in businesses that will lead the way in bringing about the next stage of the “information revolution.” SoftBank believes that such businesses require “patient long-term capital and visionary strategic investment partners,” who possess the resources to help them succeed.

The fund initiative is part of the SoftBank 2.0 move, in which SoftBank wishes to transform itself from just a Japan-focused internet and telecommunications company to a holding company that invests in evolving technologies globally. For instance, the fund is currently looking to invest in quantum computing, according to Bloomberg.

Acquisition of ARM Holdings

SoftBank acquired ARM Holdings last September for about $32 billion with objective of becoming a player in the internet of things, or IoT, revolution. ARM is the designer of the low-power chip architecture that powers about 95 percent of the world’s smartphones. The microprocessor designer, however, is also challenging Intel Corp.’s (INTC​) monopoly in the networking chips market, with plans to win about 45 percent of the market by 2020, up from a 15 percent market share in 2016.

ARM has also been devoting more resources into the development of chips for IoT, and its ability to design low-energy chip architectures comes as a huge advantage. Last October, the British company released what it called its “most comprehensive product suite ever to deliver new levels of security, efficiency, low-power connectivity and device life cycle management for the Internet of Things.”

Acquisition of Sprint

In 2013, SoftBank acquired an 80 percent stake in American carrier Sprint Corp. (S) for about $22 billion. Sprint has since been SoftBank’s biggest segment by revenue, although Sprint has been reporting net losses since 2006. At the time of purchase, SoftBank said the acquisition would make the company the third largest mobile telecom services provider in the world by revenue.

Investment in NVIDIA

When SoftBank announced the closing of the Vision Fund, it quietly mentioned that it has a stake in graphics chipmaker NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA​) without disclosing how large the stake is. However, according to sources cited by Bloomberg, the Japanese telecom giant’s stake in the chipmaker is worth about $4 billion. This amount at the time of purchase means that SoftBank’s stake in NVIDIA is 4.9 percent, which is less than the 5 percent threshold beyond which a regulatory filing is required in the U.S. That explains why SoftBank didn’t make a public announcement of its stake in NVIDIA. A 4.9 percent stake makes the Japanese company the fourth-largest shareholder in the chipmaker.

The investment in NVIDIA, again, aligns with SoftBank’s vision of being at the forefront of the next stage of the information revolution. Nvidia has been investing significantly to build the keystones of artificial intelligence in various areas ranging from datacenters to automobiles. Last year, the company released a state-of-the-art chip called Tesla P100 GPU, which the company said could perform deep learning neural network tasks 12 times quicker than its preceding high-end chip. The P100 chip cost Nvidia up to $2 billion in R&D, according to CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.

Investment in Didi Chuxing

In SoftBank’s earnings report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017, the Japanese company revealed that it had agreed to invest a total of $5 billion in Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, reportedly valuing the company at over $50 billion. SoftBank’s investment was a part of a $5.5 billion fundraising that Didi announced in April. Didi is investing significantly in artificial intelligence-based security and intelligent driving innovations. In March, the Chinese company opened a U.S.-based research and development lab called Didi Labs to help actualize the vision. Didi provides transportation services for more than 400 million users in more than 400 Chinese cities.


Last, but by no means the least, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son sanctioned a $20 million investment in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group (BABA) about 17 years ago. SoftBank made a number of additional investments in the Chinese company, making it the largest shareholder in Alibaba with over 30 percent stake. At the time that BABA was preparing its IPO, SoftBank’s stake in the Chinese company was valued at over 50 billion.

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