SoftBank CEO To Stay For More Years To Boost Investment

February 7, 2019 – SoftBank Group Corp.’s Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son said last night he will stay at the helm for more years, aiming to push ahead with his plan to invest in more high-tech companies worldwide through a giant fund.

“I will remain (top executive) until at least 69 years old,” the 61-year-old chief executive said at a press conference for the company’s earnings release.

A succession plan remains a major challenge for SoftBank, which has become a leading Japanese company, led by the charismatic leader.

Son said a few years ago that he would tap Nikesh Arora, a former Google chief business officer, as a future successor. But he changed his mind just a little more than a year later, saying he would stay on. Arora stepped down in 2016 as SoftBank president.

“I will decide on whether to remain CEO after I turn 69,” Son said.

The CEO said he wants to scale up the nearly $100 billion Vision Fund which was set up with partners including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to focus on investments in start-up technology companies in the ride hailing, e-commerce, digital payments and other sectors.

As the company has shifted its focus to investments from telecommunication services, Son said the fund has invested in more than 70 companies and most of them are unicorns or unlisted technology start-ups valued at more than $1 billion each. The fund’s size is expected to eclipse $100 billion soon, he added.

In line with the change in the business model, its mobile phone unit SoftBank Corp. listed on the Tokyo stock market in December.

SoftBank Group said Wednesday that its group net profit rose 51.6 percent to 1.54 trillion yen ($14 billion) in the nine months ended Dec. 31. Its group operating profit rose 61.8 percent to 1.86 trillion yen, on sales of 7.17 trillion yen, up 5.2 percent.

Of the 1.86 trillion yen in operating profit, the company generated 808.79 billion yen in its fund management operations including the Vision Fund.

Gains from investments in rapidly growing firms such as Uber Technologies Inc. helped the Vision Fund offset losses in other technology companies including Nvidia Corp.

Son said the company expects no major impact from a plan to replace Huawei Technologies Co.’s equipment for the mobile phone business with the cost estimated at 5 billion yen.

The plan follows the Japanese government’s decision in December to effectively exclude Huawei and another Chinese technology firm, ZTE Corp., from public procurement of equipment for next-generation 5G mobile communications networks amid concern over possible security breaches, following similar moves by the United States and some other countries.

SoftBank Corp. used Huawei telecommunications network equipment in its 4G networks and developed the 5G technology with the Chinese tech giant as a business partner.

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