Tue, Nov 06, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Softbank posts eightfold jump in profit

‘REGRETTABLE ACT’:Softbank’s ties with Saudi Arabia put the company in a tight spot after the kingdom reportedly killed a Saudi journalist in its consulate in Turkey

AFP, TOKYO

Japan’s Softbank Group Corp yesterday said it logged an eightfold jump in net profit in the six months to September thanks to strong returns from its investment funds.

Net profit rose to ¥840 billion (US$7.4 billion) from ¥103 billion in the same period last year, the Japanese mobile giant and IT investor said.

The rise was largely driven by gains of ¥649 billion from the Softbank Vision Fund, compared with ¥194 billion in the previous period.

Under chief executive officer Masayoshi Son, Softbank, which started as a software firm, has increasingly been seen as an investment firm, ploughing funds into a broad range of companies and projects outside its core business.

It has completed deals with the likes of French robotics firm Aldebaran and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴).

Nearly half of the money in the Softbank Vision Fund comes from Saudi Arabia and there has been a pledge of another US$45 billion this year.

That gives the Saudis at least an indirect role in some of the hottest companies in the tech sector, including Uber Technologies Inc, Slack Technologies Inc, WeWork Cos and Nvidia Corp.

However, Son was missing from a high-profile Saudi investment forum last month along with dozens of global business titans amid reports that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

The company’s ties with the kingdom have been put into sharp relief with the Khashoggi scandal and Softbank shares dropped sharply when the news broke.

Son yesterday condemned the killing of Khashoggi, but said that he would continue to do business with Saudi Arabia.

“We were deeply saddened by the news of Mr Khashoggi’s murder and condemn this act against humanity and also journalism and free speech. This was a horrific and deeply regrettable act,” Son said in his first comments on the killing.

He said he had sought explanations from senior Saudi officials over the killing, adding: “We want to see those responsible held accountable.”

Nevertheless, he said the firm took seriously its “obligation” to help the Saudi people “manage their financial resources and diversify their economy.”

Softbank has also made high-profile investments in the autonomous vehicles sector, last month announcing a tie-up with automaker Toyota Motor Corp for “new mobility services” such as meal deliveries.

Earlier this year, General Motors Co (GM) said the Japanese firm was investing US$2.25 billion in its autonomous car program in exchange for a stake in the venture.

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