5 facts about SoftBank: Global tech brand with a 300-year game plan

In the next three decades, SBG plans to expand its group companies to 5,000, through building strategic synergy

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Do you know Softbank is the third largest company in Japan?

SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG) is a Japanese multinational company, established in 1981 and headed by founder Masayoshi Son, who is the Chairman & CEO. It is now the third largest public company in Japan after Toyota and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial.

What are its key focus areas?

Although according to SBG’s website, it focuses on four key sectors – Mobile, Internet, Robot, and Energy, Softbank has operations in broadband, fixed-line telecommunications, e-commerce, Internet, technology services, finance, media and marketing, semiconductor design, and other businesses in Japan as well as across the globe.

Softbank is also the distributor for Apple products in Japan.

Some of its key acquisitions has been Yahoo Japan and Vodafone Japan (name changed later to Softbank Mobile), and Sprint Corporation in the US.

Softbank so far has been focused on investments in fields with a close affinity to the Group's business model, such as e-commerce and content, as well as investments in the growth field of transportation services and the growth markets of India and Southeast Asia. Examples include the operating companies for Snapdeal, India's largest online marketplace, Ola and Grab, two of the leading taxi-booking platforms in India and Southeast Asia, and the South Korean e-commerce service Coupang.

In other areas, in September 2015 SoftBank gained a foothold in the new field of FinTech by investing in US company Social Finance (SoFi).

In 2014, SoftBank co-designed Pepper, a humanoid robot, with Aldebaran Robotics.

Last year they also made major divestment selling shares worth $7.9 billion of their stake in Alibaba Group, its 84 per cent stake in games developer Supercell for a reported $7.3 billion to Tencent, and most of its shares in GungHo video game company.

Corporate philosophy

Although Softbank’s operational focus is on the Information Revolution, its aim at the fundamental level is: ‘Information Revolution – Happiness for Everyone’, as articulated in its corporate philosophy.

Masayoshi Son believes that the saddest thing in people’s lives may be loneliness, and he is determined to ensure that no one is left alone and that we can change the world through courage and love.

Softbank’s ambition is to grow as a corporate group for the next 300 years. The strategy is to develop over the long-term by forming partnerships with top companies in the Information industry.

In the next three decades, the Group plans to expand its group companies to 5,000, through building strategic synergy which will lead to self evolution and self multiplication.

Masayoshi Son wanted to step down when he was 60. What happened?

Masayoshi Son had earlier announced that he will be handing over reins to his successor Nikesh Arora on his 60th birthday (August 2017), but he changed his mind and said, “today as the information industry stands on the cusp of a full-scale global transformation, I have realized that there are still many things that I myself must achieve. So for the next five to ten years, I will continue to lead the Company personally.”

“As we move forward, we will continue to contribute to all of society by driving the Information Revolution, working to provide answers to many of the problems yet to be solved by humanity.”

Nikesh Arora who led SoftBank’s globalization since September 2014 resigned as representative director, president & COO at the end of his appointment in June 2016.

SoftBank Academia was founded on July 28, 2010, to identify and foster potential successors at the SoftBank Group. At some point in the future, Masayoshi Son will pass on the torch and SoftBank Academia has been tasked with continuing to look for potential successors and nurturing them.

Vision Fund: Largest in tech sector

In July 2016, SoftBank Group Corp made one of its largest-ever investment, with a $32 billion deal to acquire ARM Holdings PLC, the UK-based designer of the microprocessors that power more than 95 percent of the world’s smartphones.

On October 14, 20i6, Softbank announced its SoftBank Vision Fund, intended to make investments in the technology sector globally. To be managed in the UK, the fund will be one of the largest of its kind in the world.

SoftBank Group expects to invest at least $25 billion over the next five years and also concluded a non-binding MoU on October 12, 2016, with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under which PIF will consider investing in the Fund and becoming the lead investment partner, with the potential investment size of up to $45 billion over the next five years. In addition, a few large global investors are in active dialogue to join SBG and PIF to participate in this Fund. The overall potential size of the Vision Fund can go up to $100 billion.

SoftBank Group will use its deep operational expertise and network of portfolio companies in order to add value to the Fund's investments.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Chairman of PIF, commented as follows: “The Public Investment Fund is focused on achieving attractive long-term financial returns from its investments at home and abroad, as well as supporting the Kingdom's Vision 2030 strategy to develop a diversified economy. We are delighted to sign this MOU with SBG given the long history, established industry relationships and strong investment performance of SBG and Masayoshi Son.”

Son commented on the establishment of the Fund as follows: “With the establishment of the SoftBank Vision Fund, we will be able to step up investments in technology companies globally. Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector. We will further accelerate the Information Revolution by contributing to its development.”

Masayoshi Son’s latest move has meeting US president-elect Donald Trump on December 6, 2016, when he announced that Softbank will be investing $50 billion in businesses in the US, creating 50,000 new jobs in the country.