Saudi-backed Vision Fund boosts Softbank profits

SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son confirmed the sale of India's Flipkart to Walmart. (AP)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Saudi-backed Vision Fund boosts Softbank profits

  • Profits rise to 1.3 trillion yen ($11.87 billion), from 1 trillion yen a year ago
  • CEO Son confirms sale of Flipkart — part-owned by Softbank Vision Fund — to Walmart

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. reported a record annual operating profit, in line with analyst estimates, buoyed by its investments in technology firms around the world.
The company’s CEO also confirmed the sale of a majority stake in India’s largest e-commerce company Flipkart — in which it owns a 20 percent stake — to US retail giant Walmart, in what is expected to be the world’s largest ever e-commerce acquisition.
Softbank’s profit for the year ended March rose to 1.3 trillion yen ($11.87 billion), from 1 trillion yen a year ago, the company said.
Steered by founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, SoftBank has become a top global technology investor as it looks to create a group of leading companies powered by interconnected devices and artificial intelligence.
SoftBank’s private equity Vision Fund — backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company — had invested $29.7 billion in 25 tech firms, such as dog-walking app Wag and construction startup Katerra, as of the end of March.
Separately, SoftBank has invested a total of $12.9 billion in ridesharing firms Uber and Didi Chuxing, the company said on Wednesday, adding that these investments may be offered to the Vision Fund at a later date.
The telecoms and tech firm has also attracted financing from tech firms including Apple, Sharp, Foxconn and Qualcomm, to create the Vision Fund. As of last May, it had raised over $93 billion, making it the world’s largest private equity fund.
SoftBank is planning a public listing of its domestic telecoms unit this year.
It is also considering raising billions of dollars of loans though its UK-based tech firm ARM Holdings, banking sources told Reuters in March.
SoftBank did not release a forecast for the current business year, saying there were too many uncertain factors.
SoftBank shares were up about 1 percent, in a wider market that was down half a percent. However, SoftBank shares are down 4 percent so far this year.
Investor confusion over how mutually suppportive SoftBank’s dizzying array of investments are has contributed to the “conglomerate discount” that has weighed on its share price.
CEO Son recently decided to let go of one of SoftBank’s biggest overseas bets, US wireless carrier Sprint Corp, which will merge with T-Mobile US Inc. after struggling to compete with bigger rivals.
Son also confirmed on Wednesday that Walmart would buy a majority stake in India’s largest e-commerce company Flipkart, after months of anticipation.
“Last night, (they) reached a final agreement and it was decided that Flipkart will be sold to America’s Walmart,” he said on Wednesday.
Son said SoftBank’s $2.5 billion stake in the company would be worth $4 billion with the acquisition.
Walmart is expected to acquire around 70 percent of the Indian e-tailer in a deal analysts said would be the world’s biggest e-commerce acquisition and pit Walmart against rival Amazon in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.
Amazon has been expanding aggressively since it entered the Indian market in 2013.
There has been months of speculation that Walmart was preparing to buy Flipkart but both have repeatedly declined to comment on the talks.
Last week, Flipkart’s board agreed to sell up to 75 percent of the company to a Walmart-led group, according to multiple media reports.
The deal is expected to value Flipkart at around $20 billion.
Google’s parent company Alphabet is also expected to purchase a small stake, possibly around 10 percent, reports said, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
Flipkart is India’s largest e-commerce group on the basis of sales but has been fighting off a huge challenge from Amazon.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has committed more than $5 billion to grabbing a big slice of India’s e-commerce pie after failing to make inroads in China.
E-commerce sales in India hit $21 billion last year according to market research company Forrester, and are expected to soar as its population of 1.25 billion people make greater use of Internet access.
Flipkart was founded in 2007 by former Amazon employees Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, who are not related.
Like Amazon, it started as an online bookstore. Flipkart now sells everything from mobile phones, televisions and juicers to running shoes, sofas and beauty products.


For the first time in 226 years, woman to lead the NYSE

Updated 22 May 2018
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For the first time in 226 years, woman to lead the NYSE

NEW YORK: The New York Stock Exchange for the first time in its 226-year history will be led by a woman.
Stacey Cunningham, who started her career as a floor clerk on the NYSE trading floor, will become the 67th president of the Big Board.
Cunningham, who is the chief operating officer for the NYSE Group, becomes president Friday.
Current NYSE President Thomas Farley, is leaving to head a special purpose acquisition company.
The historically male-dominated financial industry has grappled with its own issues tied to the #MeToo movement.
Last month it was announced that the “Fearless Girl” statue, which has become a global symbol of female business prowess, will be moved from her spot staring down Wall Street’s bronze “Charging Bull” to a new home facing the New York Stock Exchange.