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Business deals

SoftBank's Vision Fund buys into US unicorn Automation Anywhere

Saudi-backed fund's $300m gives access to AI-based office process tech

SoftBank's Vision Fund will apply Automation Anywhere's office process technology in Japan, which is suffering from a declining population and workforce.

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- SoftBank Group's Saudi Arabia-backed Vision Fund has invested in another billion-dollar unicorn, Silicon Valley-based Automation Anywhere.

The San Jose, California, tech company announced on Thursday that it has raised $300 million from Vision Fund. Automation Anywhere develops robotic process automation, which uses AI-based software to substitute for simple work done by humans, such as filling in vouchers. The company sees an opportunity to expand its business in Japan, which is suffering from a declining population and workforce and seeking to increase work efficiency.

Over 1,400 companies and institutions use Automation Anywhere's software. Its market valuation was $1.8 billion as of July 2018 and has increased to $2.6 billion with the Vision Fund deal.

The deal comes despite concerns over the Saudi kingdom's role in the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere, told the Nikkei, "Our discussion with Softbank was going on for many months prior to the event," referring to Khashoggi's murder. Sukhla said he was not concerned about the reputation risk and influence on recruitment that might arise from accepting Saudi-related money.

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