thursday, 5 january of 2017

Apple confirms $1 bn investment in SoftBank tech fund

Apple Inc. headlines a growing list of investors in SoftBank Group Corp.’s $100 billion technology fund, which is expected to include Foxconn Technology Group Ltd. and the family office of Oracle Corp. Chairman Larry Ellison, the Japanese telecommunications giant said Wednesday.

Apple separately said it plans to invest $1 billion in the Japanese telecom giant’s fund. “We believe their new fund will speed the development of technologies which may be strategically important to Apple,” said Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet. She added that Apple has worked with SoftBank for many years.

The trio joins a list of investors that includes Qualcomm Inc. and Saudi Arabia’s government, which plans to invest $45 billion over a five-year period, SoftBank said Wednesday. SoftBank will invest $25 billion in its fund, it added.

Foxconn, known formally as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., said it didn’t have any announcements regarding future investment plans. Oracle declined to comment on Mr. Ellison’s investment. A Qualcomm spokeswoman said it intends to invest, adding that terms and the amount are still under discussion.

The SoftBank Vision Fund plans to hold an initial close to its fundraising by the end of the month, with a final close expected in mid-2017, according to people familiar with the matter. SoftBank’s recent investment into U.S. startup OneWeb Ltd., which aims to use satellites to bring internet access to rural areas, could be placed into the fund, the people said.

The fund brings together many competitors with overlapping business interests that stretch back years. In 2008, SoftBank struck a deal with Apple to become the exclusive iPhone seller in Japan. Those phones are mostly made by Foxconn and many include microchip technology that Qualcomm licenses from SoftBank-controlled ARM Holdings.

Apple’s $1 billion investment is unusual because the company doesn’t have a record of investing in venture-capital funds. It is the latest example of a changing investment strategy that last year included a $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing Technology Co., China’s homegrown ride-sharing competitor to Uber Technologies Inc.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal - January 5, 2017)

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