Prime Minister seeks SoftBank chief’s investment expertise


  • Business
  • Thursday, 08 Nov 2018

SoftBank know-how: Dr Mahathir says he met ‘with Masayoshi Son because I want him to help us in our investment efforts and deal with our financial problem.’

TOKYO: Malaysia and SoftBank Group Corp, one of the leading investors in cutting edge technology companies in the world, are finding ways to collaborate to help the country boost its economy and resolve its finances.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met with SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son here yesterday and described him as someone who is efficient in investments.

“I met with Masayoshi Son because I want him to help us in our investment efforts and deal with our financial problem.

“We wanted him to sit on the Khazanah board but he informed us that he won’t be effective as an advisor. He is better in investments.”

Mahathir said Son wanted to pave the way for Malaysia on investment possibilities, including investing in his own companies.

Mahathir recently unveiled plans for Malaysia to become one of the main destinations for the high-tech industry by 2025.

The Prime Minister unveiled a four-pronged strategy for Malaysia to be on a stronger footing in the manufacturing sector through higher productivity, contribution, innovation and increasing the number of high-skilled workers at the launch of the National Policy on Industry 4.0.

The manufacturing sector has contributed 23% to the gross domestic product and 98.5% of Malaysian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are in this sector.

In relation to innovation, the prime minister envisioned the country to be ranked among the top 30 nations in the Global Innovation Index by 2025. Currently, Malaysia is ranked 35th in the index.

“Previously, Son invested here in Japan but now he has branched out to countries in the Middle East and he has concentrated on artificial intelligence companies for huge profits.

“He is a tech person who understands investments,” he told Malaysian media accompanying him on a three-day working visit to Tokyo.

Malaysian officials confirmed that at first the government wanted Son to sit on the board of Khazanah Nasional to tap his expertise in investment on strategic sectors.

But further discussions revealed that perhaps its best for Malaysia and SoftBank to collaborate because Son has access to all artificial intelligence companies.

“He only invested in AI companies that are ranked number one around the world. So, not only a startup but those going for short term IPOs and must be the top in their sector. So he already has access.

“That is one way that we can participate,” said an official.

It is understood another area of collaboration which could be beneficial is for companies that SoftBank has invested in to have their presence in Malaysia.

“The entire idea of this collaboration is that we have access to the latest technology that is beneficial to us and not only be partners with him and also these firms should have presence in our country, employ Malaysians and offer higher paying jobs.

“It was also discussed that certain changes be made in our education policy, for example the module to be more on AI and robotics,” said the official.

“We will be meeting again to iron out the details.

“Probably, the Malaysian government will have one entity to discuss further on this (collaboration),” the official added.

Son is Japan’s richest man and is the largest shareholder in AliBaba, where he invested US$20mil and the stake is now worth around US$110bil.

He has not only concentrated his investments in AI but all among the gamut of tech companies. He manages the US$100bil Vision Fund, a fund that is backed by large sovereign funds and a company that has invested in many tech companies with the largest being in Uber.

The 60-year old Son is the founder of Japan’s third largest telco company and the largest investor in US-based telco company Sprint. In March this year, Son was reported to be investing in a massive 200GW solar project in Saudi Arabia that is part of its Vision 2030 programme that is to reduce its dependency on oil revenues.

During his three-day visit, Tun Dr Mahathir met with top fund managers managing trillions of dollars from Nomura Asset Management, Daiwa Asset Management and Nikko Asset Management.


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