SoftBank’s Son plans AI deal spree after Arm IPO


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: OpenAI logo is seen in this illustration taken, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) -SoftBank is looking for deals in artificial intelligence (AI), including a potential investment in OpenAI, after the blockbuster listing of its Arm unit, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.

SoftBank (TYO:)’s founder and chief executive, Masayoshi Son, is looking to invest tens of billions of dollars in AI, the newspaper said, citing two people familiar with Son’s thinking.

Son said in June that his tech investing conglomerate planned to shift its stance to “offence mode” amid excitement over advances in AI.

The Japanese tech investment company could also look to strike a broad strategic partnership with ChatGPT maker OpenAI, FT said.

Son has expressed excitement about AI technology, adding he is a “heavy user” of ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot from Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI. He has also said that he speaks “almost everyday” to OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

SoftBank is looking at a range of alternatives to OpenAI as well, including a preliminary approach to buy Graphcore, a UK-based AI chipmaker, the report added.

In an emailed response to Reuters, Graphcore denied there was an attempt or offer from SoftBank to buy the company.

SoftBank and OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chip designer Arm secured a $54.5 billion valuation in its U.S. initial public offering (IPO) on Wednesday, seven years after SoftBank took the company private for $32 billion.

In August, SoftBank posted a surprise loss but said it was dipping its toes back into new investments after its Vision Fund returned to the black for the first time in six quarters.

The investment giant has been in “defence mode” since May 2022 after tech valuations crashed due to sharply higher interest rates and jitters that hit the global banking sector.

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