These beliefs underpin the wave of large and surprising deals the Japanese internet and telecommunications giant has pulled off in the past year, [SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son] said on Monday. These include starting a $100 billion technology-investment fund with a Saudi sovereign-wealth fund, buying British microprocessor designer ARM Holdings PLC for $32 billion and acquiring U.S. asset manager Fortress Investment Group PLC for $3.3 billion.
This 30-year forecast created urgency, Mr. Son said in a speech at the telecom industry’s biggest trade show, Mobile World Congress. “That is why I’m in a hurry to aggregate cash to invest.”
In a brief interview after his speech, Mr. Son said his $100 billion project with the Saudis, dubbed the SoftBank Vision Fund, was bigger than the $65 billion in combined investments from the venture-capital world. He said the SoftBank Vision Fund would be focused. “Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, smart robots: those are the three main things I’m interested in,” he said.
The Internet of Things is the technology world’s term for connecting everyday objects, from refrigerators to sneakers, to the web.
Mr. Son said he didn’t expect the planned initial public offering of oil colossus Saudi Aramco to affect the size of Vision Fund. “They are a great partner,” he said of the Saudis. “They’re already rich. They have lots of money, even before the IPO.”
The Saudis already outsource much of their labor to millions of foreign guest-workers from India, Pakistan, and around the Arab world. Their numbers are huge — it’s estimated that about 31% of the Saudi population of 27 million is made up of expatriates. The wages those workers repatriate help keep their home economies afloat. If Son is correct, that cashflow is about to be diverted away from the Third World, and towards Japan, China, the U.S., and other makers of automated systems.
Those workers getting the boot and that money drying up could create the next big disruptive wave to come out of the Middle East and South Asia.