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Softbank's Son has space for 75 more global winners

SoftBank to double its investment portfolio to 150 companies, add 600 to manage Vision Fund rolls.

ET Bureau|
Jun 20, 2019, 08.29 AM IST
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In the past one year, SoftBank has made several new and follow-on investments in India.
Bengaluru: Japanese telecommunications and internet firm Soft-Bank plans to double its investment portfolio to 150 companies over the next two years, and strategically back technology businesses that are market leaders in their segments.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son said at the company’s annual general meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday that its $100 billion Vision Fund would grow its team globally to 1,000 members from the current 400 to better invest and manage the fund’s portfolio.

SoftBank has been particularly bullish on India, and local startups including ride-hailing firm Ola, hospitality chain Oyo and digital payments platform Paytm were three of the four companies that were highlighted from its global portfolio at the AGM. The mammoth fund, which has reordered technology investing globally, said in February that it had deployed $10 billion in India.

“Ola is the market leader in India in mobility, Paytm leads in payment and in one year, Oyo will become the largest hotel network in the world,” Son said. “We are in an artificial intelligence-driven technological revolution.”

Separately, Son also said limited partners or sponsors of its Vision Fund were in talks to be a part of the group’s second fund, which is expected to be launched soon. Prominent investors in the first fund include the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, and Apple. SoftBank has been facing challenges in raising its second Vision Fund, global media reports said earlier.

“We started just two years ago, and have 75 unicorns today. In a year or two, we will have 150 portfolio companies,” Rajeev Misra, CEO of SoftBank Investment Advisers, which oversees its $100 billion Vision Fund, said at the AGM.

In the past one year, SoftBank has made several new and follow-on investments in India, such as logistics startup Delhivery, grocery etailer Grofers and a kids and baby products etailer Firstcry. The fund is also in talks to invest in eyewear retailer Lenskart, which ET reported earlier. In November, the investment fund appointed Sumer Juneja as its India country head. He has been actively hiring for the domestic market.

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On Walmart’s acquisition of homegrown ecommerce company Flipkart last year, Son said the Indian etailer had two potential buyers — Amazon and Walmart. “We decided to sell to Walmart because the management team at Flipkart was willing to work in collaboration with Walmart,” he said.

Last month, SoftBank reported an 80% increase in operating profit to $22 billion for the year ended March, on gains from the sale of Flipkart and rising valuations at Oyo. The rooms Oyo manages have more than tripled from about 2,30,000 to 8,15,000 in the past seven months, and from five countries, its presence has grown to 24 during the same period.
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