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.


Turkey set to begin oil and gas drilling off Cyprus

Updated 21 February 2019
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Turkey set to begin oil and gas drilling off Cyprus

  • “In the coming days we will start drilling with two ships around Cyprus,” Turkish foreign minister said
  • Turkey and the Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: Turkey will begin drilling for oil and gas near Cyprus in coming days, state-owned news agency Anadolu reported Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying on Thursday, a move that could stoke tensions with neighboring Cyprus and Greece.
Turkey and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research in the eastern Mediterranean, a region thought to be rich in natural gas.
“In the coming days we will start drilling with two ships around Cyprus,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying in a speech to a business conference in western Turkey’s Aydin province.
“Let those who come to the region from far away, and their companies, see that nothing can be done in that region without us. Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey, we will not allow that,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey launched its first drillship “Fatih” in October to drill off the coast of Turkey’s southern Antalya province. It said a second ship that it purchased would operate in the Black Sea, but was diverted to the Cyprus area.
Breakaway north Cyprus, which is supported by Turkey, says any offshore wealth also belongs to them, as partners in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.
The island was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Countless peacemaking endeavours have failed, and offshore wealth has increasingly complicated peace negotiations, with Greek Cypriots saying the matter is not up for discussion.