SOFT­BANK CEO DE­CRIES JOUR­NAL­IST’S DEATH, DE­FENDS SAUDI FUND

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Soft­Bank Group Corp. Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Masayoshi Son de­nounced Mon­day the killing of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, but de­fended the Ja­panese tech­nol­ogy gi­ant’s in­vest­ment fund, which in­cludes Saudi money, as work that needs to be fin­ished.

Speak­ing at an earn­ings news con­fer­ence, Son called the death an at­tack on “a pre­cious life but also on jour­nal­ism and the free­dom of speech.”

Son is part­ner­ing with Saudi Ara­bian Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and about half of his $100 bil­lion Vi­sion Fund, es­tab­lished in 2016, comes from the king­dom. The fund has been in­vest­ing in var­i­ous com­pa­nies, so­lar projects and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Post, was killed at the Saudi Con­sulate in Turkey on Oct. 2, although de­tails are still un­clear.

“It is a re­al­ity a hor­ri­ble act has hap­pened. But we can­not just turn our backs on our work,” Son said. He said the in­vest­ment in his fund came from the Saudi “peo­ple.”

Khashoggi van­ished af­ter en­ter­ing the con­sulate in Is­tan­bul to pick up pa­per­work he needed to get mar­ried. His Turk­ish fi­ancee was wait­ing for him out­side. A critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi had been liv­ing in ex­ile in the United States.

Son said he met with the prince and other Saudi of­fi­cials dur­ing a re­cent visit and urged a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said he prince had ex­pressed con­cern about the killing.

The Ja­panese ty­coon said noth­ing has been de­cided about a planned sec­ond phase for the Vi­sion Fund, pend­ing the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It is too early to say and we need to ap­proach this cau­tiously,” he said.

Soft­Bank re­ported July-Septem­ber profit of 542.6 bil­lion yen ($4.8 bil­lion), up al­most five­fold from the pre­vi­ous year, helped by bet­ter re­sults at U.S. wire­less Sprint and British IoT com­pany ARM.

Quar­terly sales rose 7 per­cent to 2.38 tril­lion yen ($21.1 bil­lion).

Soft­Bank’s sprawl­ing em­pire of tech­nol­ogy in­vest­ments en­com­passes telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, fi­nan­cial-tech­nol­ogy, so­lar en­ergy, ride-book­ing ser­vices and the Pep­per com­pan­ion ro­bot.

It also has stakes in Chi­nese e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba and in Uber.

Son had not com­mented ear­lier on Khashoggi’s death. He started his news con­fer­ence by ad­dress­ing the killing, ap­pear­ing more somber than usual.

But af­ter the first few min­utes, he switched the sub­ject to the Ja­pan Se­ries win by the com­pany’s pro­fes­sional base­ball team, the Soft­Bank Hawks.

“I want to ex­press my grat­i­tude, es­pe­cially to the fans,” he said.

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