Apple to invest $1.4b in SoftBank's tech fund

Pedestrians walk past a SoftBank Group Corp. store in Tokyo.
Pedestrians walk past a SoftBank Group Corp. store in Tokyo.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TORONTO/SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Apple is planning to invest US$1 billion (S$1.44 billion) in SoftBank Group's giant new technology fund, adding its name to a growing list of interested parties and giving the iPhone maker a new avenue to tap up-and-coming technologies.

Qualcomm, Foxconn Technology and Oracle chairman Larry Ellison also intend to contribute, according to a person familiar with the matter.

"We've worked closely with SoftBank for many years and we believe their new fund will speed the development of technologies which may be strategically important to Apple," said Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the investment.

The US$100 billion Vision fund, which Japan's SoftBank aims to launch this year, will be based in London and make investments in startups around the world. Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook has often faced questions about when and how he will deploy more of the company's cash hoard on acquisitions to decrease its dependence on the iPhone, which accounts for about two-thirds of revenue. Apple had US$238 billion in cash at the end of September.

The deal follows Apple's US$1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, announced in May. The investments mark a shift for Apple, which has focused on acquiring startups valued at less than US$1 billion.

SoftBank chief executive officer Masayoshi Son told President-elect Donald Trump in December that about half, or US$50 billion, of the fund would be invested in the US, pledging to create 50,000 new jobs in the country. It counts Jonathan Bullock, chief operations officer of SoftBank International, and Alok Sama, SoftBank's chief financial officer, as senior advisers.