SoftBank mobile unit begins trading on Tokyo Stock Exchange

Japan’s mobile telecoms market is the world’s third largest and the government has been pressuring companies to lower prices for their services.

The listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange also comes as Son, one of the tech world’s most powerful people, makes waves with his $100 billion Vision Fund, and marks the transformation of the group from a mobile carrier to a global investment fund.

“He’s trying to court a new type of investor that actually shares his vision in the outlook for (Internet of Things technology), for robotics and most importantly artificial intelligence,” Chris Lane, senior researcher at Sanford C. Bermstein, said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” before trading began.

“So this is part of that transformation,” Lane said. “I think it’s a fairly major step in that transformation.”

The fund was established in October 2016 and is aimed at boosting promising businesses in the technology sector.

“IPO proceeds will supplement the holding company’s liquidity, although a large part of proceeds to SoftBank may eventually be used to fund its remaining capital commitments to the SoftBank Vision Fund (SVF), which continues to invest in internet and emerging technology businesses,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report last month.

The fund, which describes itself as “designed to be a catalyst for technology progress,” has invested in in companies such as Nauto and Brain Corp, which is building self-driving “brains” for robots, and ride-hailing giant Uber.

Aside from SoftBank Group, other major investors in the fund include Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the United Arab Emirates’ Mubadala Investment Company.

The Saudi contribution has turned controversial after the international outcry over the disappearance and death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in October amid accusations of official Saudi involvement. The kingdom, for its part, has maintained that powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not order Khashoggi’s execution.

Son said last month that he had met with the crown price to raise concerns about the incident.

Son declined to attend a major business conference in Saudi Arabia in October, which was also boycotted by numerous global investment leaders, but visited the kingdom to meet officials and express concerns about the death.

— CNBC’s Akiko Fujita contributed to this report.

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