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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

SoftBank's Son feels force of another $100bn venture

Japanese entrepreneur has held preliminary discussions with investors about committing to a second fund as early as 2019,

Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank, is looking at creating another huge fund: Akio Kon/Bloomberg
Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank, is looking at creating another huge fund: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive officer of SoftBank Group, is already thinking about his next $100 billion venture - a version 2.0 of the world’s biggest technology fund, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Japanese entrepreneur has held preliminary discussions with investors about committing to a second fund as early as 2019, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The people said the planned fund would likely draw a wider pool of investors than the first one, in which most of the contributions came from sovereign wealth funds in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A representative for SoftBank declined to comment.

The fund is likely to be similar in size to the almost $100bn that was raised for the first Vision Fund, the people said. About $45bn of the current fund has been deployed on investments ranging from Uber Technologies to a stake in Nvidia, the people said. No final decisions have been made and the billionaire businessman may also decide against the plan, they said.

“I’m not sure where he can find more good investment opportunities,” said Dan Baker, an analyst at Morningstar Investment Management Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. “That seems like a lot of additional capital.”

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At an event in Tokyo on Tuesday, Mr Son said that the second fund would be launched soon.

“Vision Fund 2 will definitely come, it’s just a matter of when,” he said, without giving a specific time-scale or potential size. “Sometime in the near future.”

Mr Son didn’t give a specific time-line or scale, but he did talk at length about how he makes investments. He invoked the mindset of Yoda, the green Jedi master from the Star Wars films.

“Yoda says use the force,” he said. “Don’t think, just feel it.”

He continued: “Every time my team does due diligence, they do it for one, two, three months and do a deep dive. But my first insight in the first few minutes is sometimes more meaningful than detailed calculation.”

“You do it so many times, you don’t even need to think,” Mr Son said. “You can just feel it.”

SoftBank shares slid 1.7 per cent in Tokyo trading and are down about 5 per cent this year.