REUTERS: Japan's SoftBank Group is launching a US$5 billion fund to invest in technology companies in Latin America, it said on Thursday, ramping up its tech ambitions beyond its huge Vision Fund.
The new fund will be headed by SoftBank's Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, it said in a statement, with the Japanese technology conglomerate committing an initial US$2 billion and serving as the fund's general partner.
The group has already shaken up the technology sector with the Saudi-backed US$100 billion Vision Fund, making splashy investments in late-stage start-ups such as ride-hailing company Uber and shared offices provider WeWork Cos.
The launch of the Latin America-focused SoftBank Innovation Fund will extend Bolivian-born billionaire Claure's responsibility beyond managing SoftBank-owned companies like chip designer Arm.
Responsibility for driving synergies between minority-stake portfolio companies, which is a key rationale for SoftBank's investment strategy, is shared between Claure and the head of the Vision Fund Rajeev Mishra.
"There is so much innovation and disruption taking place in the region and I believe the business opportunities have never been stronger," said Claure, who is executive chairman of SoftBank's U.S. telecoms unit Sprint Corp and is working to ensure the success of its planned takeover by Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile.
The fund will invest across the region, targeting much the same sectors as SoftBank's existing investments, including e-commerce, fintech and healthcare.
"Latin America presents significant opportunities for SoftBank Group and the Vision Fund will have the ability to co-invest alongside the SoftBank Innovation Fund," said Mishra.
Claure, Mishra and Chief Strategy Officer Katsunori Sago are all seen as potential successors to SoftBank Group founder and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son.
The new fund, the size of which will give it a strong presence in the region, will also help existing portfolio companies to expand in Latin America, SoftBank said.
SoftBank's previous bets in the region include a US$100 million stake in ride-hailing business 99, which was later acquired by another of its investments, Didi Chuxing.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, David Goodman and Alexandra Hudson)