SoftBank Looks for an Uber Lyft in the Cab-hail­ing Space

Masayoshi Son said that he would be willing to in­vest in Uber Tech­nolo­gies or ri­val Lyft

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech -

Pavel Alpeyev

Tokyo: SoftBank Group’s Masayoshi Son ex­pressed in­ter­est in the US ride-hail­ing mar­ket, say­ing that he would be willing to in­vest in Uber Tech­nolo­gies or ri­val Lyft.

It’s the clear­est in­di­ca­tion yet that Son is se­ri­ous about put­ting cash on the ta­ble.

SoftBank has backed Uber’s com­peti­tors else­where, in­clud­ing China’s Didi Chux­ing, In­dia’s Ola and Grab in South­east Asia.

That had fu­eled the no­tion that Son is help­ing to or­gan­ise an an­tiUber al­liance.

But last month, re­ports emerged that SoftBank was look­ing to take a stake in Uber by buy­ing shares from ex­ist­ing in­vestors, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. That was pre­ceded by news in May that a SoftBank ex­ec­u­tive met with Lyft Pres­i­dent John Zim­mer. Now, it’s clear that the Ja­panese bil­lion­aire wants to push into the US mar­ket one way or an­other.

“We are in­ter­ested in dis­cussing with Uber, we are also in­ter­ested in dis­cussing with Lyft,” Son told an­a­lysts and re­porters af­ter an earn­ings an­nounce­ment Mon­day. “We have not de­cided which way. But the US is a very big mar­ket. It’s the most im­por­tant mar­ket, so we are def­i­nitely very much in­ter­ested.”

These are typ­i­cal re­marks by an ex­ec­u­tive used to mak­ing bold bets and pro­nounce­ments, which some- times con­found com­peti­tors and part­ners. He didn’t say whether the in­vest­ment would made by the Ja­panese com­pany or the planned $100 bil­lion SoftBank Vi­sion Fund. Son has also looked at in­vest­ing in


ri­vals in In­dia’s ecom­merce mar­ket. On Mon­day, Son in­di­cated that he was in­ter­ested in talk­ing to both Uber and Lyft at the same time.

“So whether we de­cide to part­ner and in­vest into Uber or Lyft, I don’t know what would be the end re­sult, but we are def­i­nitely in­ter­ested,” he said. “And we are in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the idea and would like to dis­cuss it with both com­pa­nies.” Son said au­ton­o­mous driv­ing and ride­hail­ing tech­nolo­gies make it even more crit­i­cal for SoftBank to push into the in­dus­try: “The au­ton­o­mous car is def­i­nitely com­ing. And when that stage comes, this ride shar­ing busi­ness be­comes even more im­por­tant. That’s my opin­ion.” — Bloomberg


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