Credit Thomas Peter/Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO — SoftBank of Japan has already earned a reputation as one of the most ambitious technology companies around, unafraid to strike huge deals.
Now the conglomerate is aiming to become one of the world’s biggest investors in tech — potentially with the help of Saudi Arabia.
SoftBank announced on Thursday that it would form a new investment fund that could invest up to $ 100 billion in technology companies worldwide.
SoftBank will invest at least $ 25 billion into what’s provisionally called the SoftBank Vision Fund over the next five years, while Saudi Arabia is weighing putting in at least $ 45 billion. They may draw in other partners who could eventually push the fund’s size to its maximum.
It is an ambitious effort by SoftBank and its billionaire founder, Masayoshi Son, to expand the company’s footprint worldwide. The Japanese company, best known for its ownership of a telecommunications network in its home country and Sprint in the United States, has also made investments and acquisitions around the world.
The company has had success in investing in companies rather than buying them outright. Its signature investment was its early backing of the Alibaba Group, well before that company became a colossus of Chinese e-commerce and internet businesses.
In July, SoftBank agreed to buy ARM, the British chip designer whose products underpin goods as varied as iPhones and drones, for $ 32 billion. It has also been a prolific investor in budding technology companies, from the Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing to the bioengineering start-up Zymergen.
“With the establishment of the SoftBank Vision Fund, we will be able to step up investments in technology companies globally,” Mr. Son said in a statement. “Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector.”
Its partner, Saudi Arabia, has been taking bigger steps into the tech investing world as well. The kingdom poured $ 3.5 billion into Uber in June, becoming one of the Silicon Valley darling’s biggest individual investors and gaining a seat on its board.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is leading the investment in the SoftBank Vision Fund, has been looking to diversify its portfolio beyond oil assets. The kingdom’s fund is expected to swell to more than $ 2 trillion after the country’s state-owned oil producer, Aramco, goes public in the next several years.
“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,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and chairman of the Public Investment Fund, said in a statement.
The SoftBank Vision Fund will be led by Rajeev Misra, SoftBank’s head of strategic finance, and will be based in Britain. Two former investment bankers — Nizar al-Bassam, formerly of Deutsche Bank, and Dalinc Ariburnu, previously of Goldman Sachs — will also be involved.