SoftBank to Pump $5 Billion Into China’s Didi

Using DiDi many times in China, really a great APP, you get into a taxi within just a few minutes.

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. is pledging to invest $5 billion in China’s leading ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, seeking to position itself in a key technology growth area.

The investment would come during the current business year, according to an earnings filing on Wednesday, and local media reports on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that SoftBank was considering a $6 billion investment in Didi, formally known as Xiaoju Kuaizhi Inc.

SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son, who hopes to launch a $100 billion technology fund as early as next week, is eyeing investments in autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and biotechnology to cement SoftBank’s place as the owner of crucial technologies in an age where robots’ capabilities exceed humans. The fund—whose investors include Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co., Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. QCOM +0.46% —will likely invest in companies such as shared-office-space firm WeWork Cos. and satellite operator Intelsat SA, SoftBank says.

Car-hailing apps are likely to continue to be early adopters of self-driving capabilities, and the investment in Didi, which merged with Uber Technologies Inc.’s China operations last year, is part of SoftBank’s concerted push into the car industry. Last year, SoftBank led a $750 million fundraising push in Singapore-based Grab, in which Didi also has an investment. SoftBank also led a $600 million financing round in Kuaidi Dache in 2015, which later merged with Didi.

SoftBank on Friday also said it would lead a $502 million funding round for London-based startup Improbable, whose virtual-reality technology allows it to simulate real-world conditions, such as traffic flow.

Didi counts all three of China’s largest technology companies— Tencent Holdings Ltd. , Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. —as shareholders.

Source: Wall Street Journal by Mayumi Negishi