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Saudi Arabia, Japan investor create $100B fund


Saudi Arabia and Japan’s Softbank have signed a deal to create a $100 billion technology investment fund, making it one of the largest private equity investors in the world.

Softbank will invest at least $25 billion and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF) up to $45 billion. Softbank said it was in talks with a handful of large investors to make up the difference.

The tentatively named Softbank Vision Fund will be managed by Softbank and invest in global technology companies, and PIF will be lead investor.

A statement from Softbank did not specify what stage of business it would invest in, but it did make size comparisons with recent funds under management in the private equity sector, suggesting it would target deals of that size.

The Financial Times noted that the fund would be about the same size as the total sum of all venture capital funds raised in the US over the last two and a half years.

“With the establishment of the Softbank Vision Fund, we will be able to step up investments in technology companies globally. Over the next decade, the Softbank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector,” said Softbank Group Corp chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son in a statement released today.

Softbank, a $68 billion technology and telecommunications company, is one of the biggest investors in Asia and lists giants such as Alibaba and Kuaidi Dache, which merged with Didi Dache to beat Uber in China, among its successes.

It’s looking to diversify after Son took back plans to retire and started rethinking its global strategy. For example, in September Softbank spent 24 billion British pounds (US$29 billion) buying UK semiconductor company Arm Holdings as a bet on the Internet of Things industry.

The deal is part of Saudi Arabia’s much talked about pivot from being an oil economy. It’s a project led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who, as its chairman, wants to turn the PIF into a $2 trillion fund.

The first step was a $3.5 billion investment in Uber this year.

The PIF was roundly criticized by investors and entrepreneurs in the Middle East for investing in a technology company from outside the region, when many viable businesses are clamouring for funding here.

Any investments outside MENA by the new fund are likely to receive the same treatment.

But Arzan VC senior investment manager Laith Zraikat wrote that the deal said more about Uber’s strategy, and would have flow-on effects in MENA.

Feature image via Wamda Capital.

October 14th 2016, 7:37 am
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