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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, January 20, 2018

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SoftBank shows interest in parking funds in Uber or Lyft

Interest in Uber or Lyft in the future

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TOKYO, Japan - For the first time, Japan’s SoftBank Group has publicly indicated an interest in Uber or Lyft in the future.

The announcement comes after the prolific investor in global technology start-ups, reported a sharp rise in quarterly profits.

The company, that has so far poured funds into Grab in Singapore, Ola in India and Didi Chuxing in China, said it would be interested in parking funds in ride-hailing firms.

The announcement also comes weeks after a media report claimed that Uber shareholders and its board were mulling a stock sale to SoftBank and other investors.

Speaking to reporters at SoftBank's first-quarter earnings briefing on Monday, SoftBank's CEO and founder Masayoshi Son said, “We are interested in discussing with Uber, we are also interested in discussing with Lyft, we have not decided which way. Whether we decide to partner and invest into Uber or Lyft, I don't know what will be the end result. The U.S. is a very big market, the most important market, so we are definitely very much interested."

Son added that by expanding its reach to Uber or Lyft, SoftBank could help determine the industry's direction in adopting the autonomous-driving technology. 

He said the technology "is definitely coming, and when that comes, this ride-sharing business becomes even more important.”

At the briefing, SoftBank said its quarterly operating profit rose 50 percent from a year ago to $4.32 billion (479 billion yen) after it included Vision Fund, as a new reportable segment.

It said it had booked a 105 billion yen gain on its stake in graphics chip maker Nvidia.

Vision Fund, the world's largest private equity fund, is backed by investors including Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, Apple and Foxconn.

It has raised more than $93 billion so far.

Son said that in the long term "if all goes well Vision Fund should contribute several hundred billion yen in annual revenue.”

Meanwhile, SoftBank, citing uncertainty, did not release a forecast for the current business year ending March.

SoftBank shares ended up 2.4 percent before the quarterly results were announced.

Son also indicated that he was close to a deal involving SoftBank-controlled U.S. wireless operator Sprint Corp. that would trigger consolidation in the U.S. telecom industry.

 

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