Softbank to sell 25 per cent stake in Arm to new fund, Vision

Softbank’s GBP 24bn acquisition of Arm Holdings, the UK’s largest technology company, was announced the day after the UK Brexit vote and at the time was considered to be a something of a surprise given the uncertainty the result might have brought for UK companies. It also caught the eye for being the largest price paid for a European technology company. Therefore, reports in today’s media that Softbank are now prepared to sell 25 per cent of their shares in Arm to Vision Fund might seem a little surprising when taken at face value.

However, read a little further on and it becomes apparent that this particular deal might help pave the way for Softbank in other aspects of founder Masayoshi Son’s broader strategy. Let me explain: shortly after the Softbank/Arm deal completed in early October, Softbank announced that they were launching a new USD 100bn tech fund in conjunction with the “Public Investment Fund (PIF)”, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. This fund, named “Vision fund” was to be based out of London and would reportedly be financed via an initial USD 25bn from Softbank and up to USD 45bn from PIF and other tech firms such as Apple, Qualcomm and Foxconn, but on a much smaller scale. Investment has also been sought from Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi state-backed investment group, and it is believed that the sale of 25 per cent of Arm to the fund might just be what is needed to convince Mubadala to invest in Vision.

Naturally at his point no one is prepared to comment formally about any of this but I would expect it only to be a matter of days before the formal announcements begin!