Saudi-backed SoftBank fund pumps $390m into banking startup

British banking start-up OakNorth is targeting international expansion after closing a $440 million fundraising round led by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. (File/Reuters)
Updated 08 February 2019
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Saudi-backed SoftBank fund pumps $390m into banking startup

  • The specialist business and property lender will use the cash injection to launch in the United States before considering further overseas opportunities
  • The fundraising also represented a vote of confidence in British lending, despite mounting concerns over the potential impact of Brexit on the country’s economy

LONDON: British banking start-up OakNorth is targeting international expansion after closing a $440 million fundraising round led by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.
The specialist business and property lender will use the cash injection to launch in the United States before considering further overseas opportunities, Rishi Khosla, the firm’s co-founder and chief executive, told Reuters on Friday.
The fundraising also represented a vote of confidence in British lending, despite mounting concerns over the potential impact of Brexit on the country’s economy, Khosla said.
“Small businesses are the key growth driver in most economies and that’s true in the UK,” he said.
“The fundamentals are absolutely good over a period of time. If you tar a whole segment with the same brush I think that’s incredibly unfair. You’ll always have good businesses and bad businesses.”
SoftBank’s Vision Fund led the round with a $390 million investment, with Clermont Group providing the rest of the cash.
OakNorth, which also provides personal and business savings, has raised more than $1 billion since launching in September 2015 as investors show an appetite for financial technology firms to shake up the banking industry.
The latest investment values the company at around $2.8 billion.
SoftBank’s technology-focused Vision Fund has multi-billion-dollar investments in US companies, including WeWork and Uber.
“SoftBank always has a very large vision for businesses they get involved in and for us we have a relentless focus on small businesses,” Khosla said.
“For us to fulfil that on a global basis having an investor who shares that vision is really important.”
Khosla added that while the firm was now well-funded, there was a possibility it could float within five years.
British media had reported late last year that OakNorth had held talks with SoftBank about a potential investment.
In September, OakNorth had closed a $100 million funding round, which valued it at $2.3 billion at the time.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.