11:53 pm - Thursday November 5, 2015

Japan telecom giant SoftBank to invest $10bn in India

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NEW DELHI/ MUMBAI: Japanese telecom and internet giant SoftBank on Monday announced its intent to invest nearly $10 billion (around Rs 60,000 crore) in India over the next few years, with Masayoshi Son, the $92 billion conglomerate’s chairman and founder, expected to kick off investments during his trip to India, where he is expected to meet several entrepreneurs .

Son mentioned the investment intention during his meeting with communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, an official statement said, adding that India is “the top most priority for SoftBank”.

Japan’s richest man, who had invested $20 million in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2000, is eyeing investments in e-tailing and technology companies in India, said sources privy to the discussions. Son is learnt to have suggested that the Centre should speed up the rollout of telecom infrastructure and quickly move to nationwide 4G services.

SoftBank is investing $627 million in Delhi-based e-commerce player Snapdeal, the biggest by any Japanese investor, and also pumping in as much as $180 million in taxi hailing startup Olacabs which competes directly with Uber.

Softbank so far runs a joint venture with Indian telecom major Bharti (Bharti Softbank) here and has invested in Bangalore-based mobile advertising network InMobi. The mammoth investment plan from SoftBank comes at a time when privately held Indian consumer tech companies are witnessing soaring valuations and seeing investors line up expecting high returns. Sources said SoftBank had also held talks with mobile payments companies Paytm and Freecharge and that Masa will be meeting a few other startups on his India trip.

(Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with CEO of SoftBank Corporation, Masayoshi Son, in New Delhi: PTI Photo)

Fifty-seven-year-old Son is Japan’s richest man with an estimated net worth of $20 billion having surpassed Tadashi Yanai, chairman of Fast Retailing which runs Uniqlo, post Alibaba’s IPO. SoftBank is the single largest shareholder in the Chinese e-commerce behemoth with a 34% stake in the Jack Ma-led company. SoftBank had acquitted the US mobile services provider Sprint in 2012 and had made attempts to buy T Mobile earlier this year ( the bid was later withdrawn) to collectively take on the two biggies AT&T and Verizon in the American mobile market.

SoftBank is expected to have picked up about 20-25% stake in Snapdeal and Olacabs each, however, this could not be independently confirmed by TOI. A venture capitalist on conditions of anonymity said that SoftBank only comes in when it can pick up a significant minority stake in ventures which is the case in both Snapdeal and Ola, he said.

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