Softbank 'anxiously' monitoring Saudi Arabia situation - executive

Anna Jefferson
October 18, 2018

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and USA permanent resident whose writings have been critical of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been missing since entering the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2. The kingdom provided almost half the money for SoftBank's $93 billion tech-focused Vision Fund, which has made big investments in startups such as WeWork and Slack.

The Vision Fund acquired a 25 percent stake in Arm from SoftBank previous year, among the fund's largest deals to date for SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son.

Saudi Arabia said it rejects "threats" and political pressure over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, a day after US President Donald Trump said there would be "severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia is found to have killed the Washington Post columnist.

SoftBank shares decline by worries over its ties to Saudi Arabia as well as a broader market sell-off.

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His disappearance has drawn global condemnation and sparked warnings from US President Donald Trump on Saturday of "severe punishment" if the Saudis are found to be behind his death.

The benchmark Nikkei index was down 1.4 per cent in morning Tokyo trade as investors fretted over Sino-US trade disputes and a possible slowdown in the Chinese economy.

The Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, France and Germany on Sunday expressed serious concerns about the fate of a missing Saudi Arabian journalist and called for an investigation into the case.

Questioned by AFP, a spokesman for SoftBank Group has claimed not to be able to tell if the boss is a billionaire of the juggernaut japanese, Masayoshi Son, would or not at this meeting supposed to symbolize the ambition of the plan "Vision 2030" of Saudi Arabia.

Jamal Khashoggi: Saudi-Turkish team carry out consulate search
In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014, Jamal Khashoggi looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. In statements after the call, both praised the creation of a joint Saudi-Turkish investigation.

Arm Chief Executive Simon Segars said the company has been able to expand rapidly under SoftBank's ownership, hiring 2,000 people in the past two years for a total of 6,000 employees. "Although we don't expect this latest diplomatic incident to lead to any sanctions on Saudi Arabia, there is always some possibility that some firms will pull out their money from the Vision Fund".

"Something this big would definitely spook investors, and Saudi just opened up for foreign direct investment, so that was big", said Issam Kassabieh, a financial analyst at Dubai-based firm Menacorp Finance.

Ties to the Gulf Kingdom extend beyond tech investment.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO at Uber Technologies Inc in which SoftBank is the largest shareholder - said last week he would no longer attend.

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"For sure, they listened to the conversation between me and Jamal and other activists, in Canada, in the States, in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia", Omar Abdulaziz said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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