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SoftBank’s Son is ready to invest again

Artificial intelligence and a planned IPO for chipmaker Arm have given the Japanese investor a new lease on life.

SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son said Wednesday that after a period of refraining from making new investments the technology group is ready to make a big push into artificial intelligence.

Son admitted that he had been “sad” because it seemed that he didn’t achieve as much as he would have liked as an entrepreneur, but the recent advances in generative AI have reinvigorated his outlook.

“I want to be a part of building [the] future,” he said. “That’s something I’m most excited about.”

Son said that the group didn’t have spare cash three years ago, but after selling the majority of its shares in Alibaba, SoftBank has accumulated 5 trillion yen (about $35 billion).

Additional capital could also soon come from an IPO of Arm, the UK chipmaker that SoftBank purchased in 2016 for $31 billion. Arm is in talks with Intel to anchor its upcoming IPO, and is reportedly preparing to debut in New York as early as September. Arm could raise $10 billion in the listing, Bloomberg reported.

The fresh cash will allow SoftBank to shift to “offense mode” after being on the defensive, Son said.

Over the past few years, SoftBank has dramatically scaled back its VC investment. In 2022, the firm’s Vision Fund 1 and 2 deployed $3.2 billion, compared with $44.3 billion the year prior. In April, SoftBank sold its Asia-focused VC arm to an entity controlled by Son’s younger brother.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 has more than $10 billion remaining to be deployed. The firm’s latest presentation showed that the fund’s fair value is currently $31.9 billion on $50.2 billion invested. And Softbank is reportedly planning another round of layoffs in the Vision Fund unit following significant cuts last year.

SoftBank shares have risen almost 32% from a low point nearly a month ago, buoyed by hopes that Arm will soon capitalize on investors’ obsession with AI models and the chips that power them. The share price of Nvidia, a rival AI-focused chipmaker, has risen 206% since the start of the year. SoftBank previously tried and failed to sell Arm to Nvidia, a deal that collapsed under regulatory pressure in the US and Europe.

Son said that he believes that the AI revolution will allow people to live more “comfortably” and “happily,” and Arm will play a central role in this change. While Son has long positioned SoftBank as a firm that seeks to capitalize on the AI revolution, the group didn’t invest in any leading generative AI companies, including OpenAI.

SoftBank lost around $39 billion in its last fiscal year, which ended March 31.

Featured image of Masayoshi Son by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

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