SoftBank’s Son defends ties with Saudi Arabia

Softbank group CEO Masayoshi Son delivers a speech during his company's financial results press conference at a hotel in Tokyo on Monday. — AFP

TOKYO — SoftBank Group Corp CEO Masayoshi Son on Monday said his firm must carry out its responsibility to the Kingdom’s citizens whose money is invested in its Vision Fund.

“These funds are important to the Saudi people in ensuring their economy diversifies and is no longer dependent on oil,” Son said on Monday.

“It is true that a horrible incident happened. On the other hand, we have a responsibility

towards the Saudi people, and we must carry out our responsibility rather than turn our backs on them.”

Son was presenting SoftBank’s earnings results.

Under the tycoon Son, SoftBank -- originally a software giant -- has increasingly become an investment firm, ploughing funds into a broad range of companies and projects outside its core business.

Using the SoftBank Vision Fund, worth an estimated $100 billion, Son has taken stakes in some of the hottest firms in the tech sector, including Uber, Slack, WeWork and Nvidia.

SoftBank logged an eight-fold jump in net profit in the six months to September -- thanks mainly to strong returns from its investment funds.

Net profit rose to 840 billion yen ($7.4 billion) from 103 billion yen during the same period last year.

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

Operating profit shot up 62 percent to 1.42 trillion yen on revenue of 4.65 trillion yen, up 5.5 percent.

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

Earlier this year, General Motors said the Japanese firm was investing $2.25 billion in GM’s autonomous car program in exchange for a stake in the venture. — Agencies