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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Softbank CEO to carry on with deals despite trade jitters

Masayoshi Son said he was optimistic disputes would not affect his firm's investments

Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of Softbank. The company's Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund, has made many investments in US technology firms. Photo: Reuters  
Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of Softbank. The company's Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund, has made many investments in US technology firms. Photo: Reuters  

SoftBank Group's chief executive Masayoshi Son said on Tuesday he was optimistic that US President Donald Trump’s escalation of trade disputes and heightened scrutiny of foreign investments would not affect the Japanese firm’s prolific dealmaking.

Mr Trump’s administration has been slapping trade tariffs on Chinese goods and blocking Chinese investments in the United States it deems a threat to US national security.

SoftBank, which has links to China through investments such as internet giant Alibaba Group Holding, has seen its US deals facing protracted regulatory reviews as a result.

“Our investments are innocent,” Mr Son told reporters in Sun Valley, Idaho, where investment bank Allen & Co is hosting an annual get-together for technology, telecommunications and media executives.

SoftBank and its Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund which in May last year raised over $93 billion, have made many investments in US technology firms, including ride-hailing firm Uber and share-office space firm WeWork. The fund has raised tens of billions of dollars from sovereign wealth funds in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Last year, SoftBank bought Fortress Investment Group but agreed to run the private equity firm at an arm's length to win permission from the Committee on Foreign Investment, a US national security panel, to proceed with the acquisition.

Mr Son also told reporters on Tuesday he was not interested in doing any “traditional media” acquisitions, even as US cable operator Comcast Corp is looking for partners to strengthen its bid for media assets that Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to sell to Walt Disney Company.

Mr Son said he is instead going to continue to focus on the areas where SoftBank has made some of its biggest investments, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics and ride sharing.