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SoftBank turns to AI after cashing out of Alibaba


SoftBank turns to AI after cashing out of Alibaba

The Japanese technology investor SoftBank has announced its plans to invest in artificial intelligence companies. 

It has been in a defensive crouch for over a year, cutting down its spending after many startup investments went sour during the tech downturn. 

The company recently cashed out almost its entire stake in the Chinese e-commerce company, Alibaba Group, giving it fresh financial firepower to invest in AI. 

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SoftBank’s CFO, Yoshimitsu Goto, said that its CEO, Masayoshi Son, has been dedicating time to studying its approach to AI and working on plans to list its chip-design unit, Arm.

The technology investor renewed embrace of AI comes after Mr. Son has spent the better part of a decade pledging that it was fully focused on the forthcoming “AI revolution.” 

He has said AI is the unifying theme of his $100 billion Vision Fund startup investment vehicle launched in 2017. 

But those investments largely went to companies without obvious groundings in AI, such as office-space company WeWork, hotel company Oyo, and an array of ride-hailing apps.

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SoftBank is turning to AI as it says goodbye to Alibaba, the most successful investment in Mr. Son’s more than four-decade career. 

Mr. Son backed Alibaba in its infancy in 2000, and as recently as mid-2021, SoftBank’s stake in the Chinese company was worth nearly $100 billion. 

In recent years, SoftBank has cashed in its Alibaba holdings through financing deals that handed it money upfront while leaving it the option of keeping the shares later. 

Ultimately it has given up many of the shares outright, and Mr. Goto said virtually all of SoftBank’s remaining Alibaba shares have been used to procure funds.

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