SoftBank to shift from ‘defense mode’ to ‘offense mode,’ says CEO Masayoshi Son

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Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SoftBank Group chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son on Wednesday said that the Japanese investment firm plans to shift from “defense mode” to “offense mode” and wants to capitalize on the AI boom.

“Now, the time has come to shift to offense mode,” Son said during a shareholders’ annual general meeting.

“In the past few years, we focused on being [on] ‘defense.’ Three years ago, we didn’t have a lot of cash on hand. But because we have been in defense mode, we have built our cash on hand to five trillion yen ($35.3 billion),” Son said.

“We are ready to shift to offense mode. I am excited about that,” said Son.

The tech conglomerate, which engages in venture capital investing through its Vision Fund, has had its fair share of ups and downs. It was in “defense┬ámode” as it halted new investments and trimmed its stake in Alibaba. In May, the Vision Fund reported a record $32 billion loss.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son says the giant is ready to shift to 'offense' mode

“What I am interested in most, what I am working on most, is the AI revolution. I believe that mankind is going to be exceeded by computer or AI,” said Son.

“We would like to be [in] the leading position for the AI revolution,” said Son.

SoftBank shares rose 2.63% in Wednesday morning trade.

The Vision Fund has invested in Chinese tech firms and therefore was hit by Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s tech sector and the subsequent plunge in share prices. SoftBank’s portfolio companies include ByteDance, DiDi Grocery, Coupang and more.

SoftBank is gearing up for the IPO of Arm, the U.K.-based chip design firm it acquired in 2016. Arm filed for the listing in the U.S. SoftBank’s CFO Yoshimitsu Goto said the IPO process is “going smoothly.”

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Artificial intelligence has seen explosive growth in recent months, fueled by chatbot ChatGPT’s virality. ChatGPT has amazed researchers and the general public with its ability to generate humanlike responses to users’ prompts.

Son said on Tuesday that he is “a heavy user of ChatGPT” and that ChatGPT is “amazing.”

“The fortunes of SoftBank [are] looking to turn,” said Amir Anvarzadeh, Japan equity market strategist at Asymmetric Advisors on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” Wednesday after SoftBank’s shareholders’ meeting.

“You can see why Nvidia wanted to buy Arm a few years back because obviously, they wanted all of the architecture to themselves. Now it kind of makes sense, looking back.” The U.S. chip maker had dropped out of the $40 billion deal to acquire Arm.

“$30 billion is what we thought could be what Arm is worth. I reckon now, even $60 billion, might not seem too insane, given the backdrop,” said Anvarzadeh.

SoftBank's fortunes are 'looking to turn,' strategist says



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