SoftBank boss: ‘Losses won’t stop me fighting’

SoftBank boss: ‘Losses won’t stop me fighting’
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. (AFP/File)
Updated 06 December 2019

SoftBank boss: ‘Losses won’t stop me fighting’

SoftBank boss: ‘Losses won’t stop me fighting’
  • SoftBank owns 26 percent of China’s Alibaba

TOKYO: Weeks after his billion-dollar bailout of WeWork, SoftBank Group Corp’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son reiterated his belief in an instinct-led investing style, in a discussion with Alibaba Group Holding Inc’s co-founder Jack Ma.

SoftBank owns 26 percent of China’s Alibaba, with its origin in a $20 million investment in 2000, and the stake is now worth more than the Japanese firm’s market capitalization.

Son on Friday said the decision to invest in Alibaba was driven by a gut feeling.

Other entrepreneurs Son met at that time “did not have true belief in their heart. I can feel,” Son said. “We are the same animal. We are both a little crazy,” he said of long-time ally Ma.

Ma said Son initially tried to invest $50 million in the e-commerce firm, but that he declined saying it was too large a sum — part of a pattern of offering big cheques to company founders that continued with WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann.

Son’s comments come weeks after he was forced to bail out office-sharing startup WeWork when Neumann’s level of control over his firm and hard-partying ways chilled investor appetite and crashed plans for an initial public offering (IPO).

Son last month said he misjudged Neumann’s character, after WeWork — formally The We Company — and other sputtering bets saw his $100 billion Vision Fund report an $8.9 billion second-quarter operating loss.

The conversation at Tokyo University between two of Asia’s leading tech entrepreneurs comes at a point of divergence in their careers, with 55-year-old Ma retiring as Alibaba’s executive chairman in September and Son pledging to spend his sixth decade at the helm of his juggernaut.

SoftBank hopes to drive commercialization of the emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI), announcing on Friday it will spend 20 billion yen ($184 million) over 10 years funding an AI research institute with Tokyo University.

Son “probably has the biggest guts in the world on doing investment,” Ma said.

“Too much guts, sometimes I lose a lot of money,” Son responded.

“I have not achieved anything yet,” Son said. “I’m still a challenger and every day I’m still fighting.”


Egyptian minister hails reforms as public investment jumps 70%

Updated 03 December 2020

Egyptian minister hails reforms as public investment jumps 70%

Egyptian minister hails reforms as public investment jumps 70%
  • The rate of economic growth reached about 1.8 percent — less than the population growth rate
  • A plan to control population increase will begin in January 2021

CAIRO: The volume of public investment in Egypt grew by 70 percent in the 2020/2021 fiscal year, reaching 595 billion Egyptian pounds ($37.9 billion), Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Saeed has said.

In a speech at the Egypt Economic Summit 2020, she said that Egypt could become one of only three economies across the Middle East to achieve economic growth this year.

The growth followed reforms that helped make the Egyptian economy “more flexible” and “able to absorb external shocks,” she said.

Al-Saeed said Egypt faced great challenges that led to imbalances in the monetary, financial and external axes, which caused a decline in Egyptian economic indicators. The rate of economic growth reached about 1.8 percent — less than the population growth rate.

The minister added that a plan to control population increase will begin in January 2021, as Egypt’s population is expected to grow by 2.5 million annually and reach 130 million in 2030.

Al-Saeed said that achieving development requires sustained economic progress to overcome weak population growth and the challenges facing the Egyptian economy in light of political and economic changes and the coronavirus pandemic.

The challenge helped Egypt commit to reforms based on comprehensive planning and an ambitious vision for the future, in the form of Egypt’s Vision 2030 sustainable development strategy, the minister said.

Egypt’s implementation of reforms since November 2016 led to “overall stability” and “comprehensive growth.” This was reflected in positive indicators that the Egyptian economy saw before the coronavirus outbreak, she added.

The rate of economic growth was about 5.6 percent in the first half of the 2019/2020 fiscal year, and about 5 percent during the third quarter. There was an average growth of 5.4 percent in the first nine months of the year, before the coronavirus outbreak.

Al-Saeed said that international institutions had “positive expectations” regarding the Egyptian economy.

She referred to the results of the World Economic Outlook report issued by the International Monetary Fund in October 2020, in which the Fund raised its expectations for Egypt’s gross domestic product growth to 3.5 percent for the year, compared with a previous forecast of 2 percent in the June report.

If the prediction is realized, it will make Egypt among only three economies in the Middle East and Central Asia to achieve economic growth this year.