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SoftBank

SoftBank pours billions into Big Tech, amasses $1.2bn in Amazon

Investment powerhouse changes tack after being burned by unicorns

SoftBank boss Masayoshi Son last week announced a new subsidiary for investing in public equities.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- SoftBank Group is on another investment spree -- but this time it is buying into America's Big Tech establishment rather than chasing highly valued startups in a bid to appease investors with immediate returns

New filings Monday by the Japanese conglomerate show that it had built a $1 billion stake in Amazon as of June 30. Other new holdings included $500 million worth of shares in Google parent Alphabet, and $200 million each in Tesla and Netflix. Because share prices in these companies have risen since then, the Amazon stake alone is now worth $1.2 billion.

The filings, which SoftBank submitted this month to report activities in the April-June period, are required on a quarterly basis by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This marks the first time SoftBank has made such a filing.

During an earnings call last week, SoftBank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son announced the launch of a subsidiary to invest $555 million in publicly listed stock using excess cash from recent big asset sales, including shares of Alibaba Group Holding.  

The move to buy into large, public tech companies marks a shift in priorities for the Japanese investment powerhouse, as it grapples with investor pressure to improve its balance sheet.

SoftBank is known most around the world for its venture capital arm the Vision Fund, which backs private startups according to Son's 300-year plan.

But its aggressive strategy, along with the formation of a second Vision Fund, has been called into question especially after its perceived reckless bet in WeWork. The coronavirus pandemic has added to the company's financial woes.

Speaking of its new investment management subsidiary last week, Son said, "Amazon, Apple, Facebook, so these are the names generally recognized widely by many people. These are highly liquid names that we can sell quite easily in the market."

"In addition to that, in order to minimize the risk, we use derivative transactions as well," he said. "And against the volatility in the market, we hope to hedge the risk."

Already, the new holdings in large U.S. public companies seem to be paying off.

SoftBank's position in Amazon, as disclosed in the Monday filing, would have reaped a $200 million gain in just six weeks, while its stake in Tesla would have gained $80 million, or 65%.

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