“Japanese superman Masayoshi Son” invests in SuperCell – interview with Finland’s largest business newspaper Talouselämä
Talouselämä (Finland’s largest business newspaper)’s news editor Mirva Heiskanen interviewed me for their article entitled “Japanese superman Masayoshi Son invests in Supercell” (Supercellin ostaja Masayoshi Son on Japanin supermies).
Here are some of my main points:
Its not well known in Europe and US yet, but SoftBank is a very large company, and aiming to become the world’s largest company
SoftBank is really a very large company, driven by the charismatic founder Masayoshi Son. To get a feeling for the size of SoftBank, while the investment in Supercell is a large amount of money by anybody’s standards, its about 5% of SoftBank’s acquisitions this year alone (in addition to M&A type investments, SoftBank also invests substantial sums in networking equipment and other telecom business infrastructure and data centers).
SoftBank invested in about 1500 companies, the most famous currently being Alibaba
Overall SoftBank invests in about 1500 companies or more: SoftBank takes a venture capital approach to this portfolio. Overall SoftBank investments are incredibly successful. As an example, look at the currently important Alibaba case:
Softbank acquired 36.7% of Alibaba in 2000 for US$ 20 million.
Alibaba’s market cap will be determined after its IPO, but currently figures between US$ 100 billion and even up to US$ 250 billion circulate. This would value SoftBank’s 36.7% stake in Alibaba at somewhere between US$ 36.7 billion and US$ 91 billion, a return on initial investment between 1835 and 4550 times!
While SoftBank’s overall portfolio is outstandingly successful, not every single investment is successful, as is normal for a venture type investment style.
This year alone, SoftBank investments and acquisitions amount to about US$ 30 billion
This year SoftBank’s direct investments and acquisitions alone are on the order of US$ 30 billion and include:
- Sprint US$ 21.6 billion + infrastructure investments
- Clearwire (not sure if this is included in the Sprint figures)
- eMobile/eAccess US$ 5 billion including debt
- GungHo increase stake US$ 1/4 billion
- Supercell US$ 1.5 billion
- mobile phone distributor Brightstar which is another US$ 1.26 billion
Talouselämä questions about SoftBank and its investment in Supercell and my answers:
- What are SoftBank’s targets? SoftBank wants to become one of the most important companies globally, has a 30 year plan and a 300 your plan
- How does SoftBank integrate acquisitions? Case-by-case. In some cases, e.g. Vodafone-Japan KK, Softbank totally absorbed the company and its assets became much of the starting point of SoftBank Mobile, however today’s SoftBank Mobile is a dramatically different company compared to Vodafone-Japan KK, which according to Masayoshi Son in recent interviews “was going south”.
- How important are games for Softbank? SoftBank is major investor in GungHo, which is one of the world’s most successful smartphone game companies.
- What other businesses does SoftBank concentrate on, and what kind of goals does it have? SoftBank today focusses on mobile communications and internet, however is also active in other areas. For example, SoftBank is aggressively building an energy business, with focus on renewable energy, which includes renewable energy investments in Mongolia for example. SoftBank‘s more than 1500 investments include Alibaba and Yahoo Japan KK.
To understand SoftBank better, read our report on SoftBank, an analysis of SoftBank, history, current data, and the context.
Understand Japan’s games sector and its disruption
Report “Japan game makers and markets” (pdf file, approx 400 pages, 140 figures)
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