Son, we need your help

Prime Min­is­ter seeks SoftBank chief’s in­vest­ment ex­per­tise

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Front Page - By MERGAWATI ZULFAKAR merga@thes­tar.com.my

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 four­pronged 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 per- haps 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.

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.’

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