News

SoftBank launches new $108 billion fund to invest in A.I.

SoftBank on Friday announced its second mega fund to invest into technology companies developing artificial intelligence technologies around the world.

The total expected contribution to the SoftBank Vision Fund 2 from both the Japanese conglomerate and other partners stands at about $ 108 billion based on a series of memoranda of understandings, the company said.

For its part, SoftBank said it plans to contribute $ 38 billion into the new fund.

Some prominent corporations that are expected to participate in Vision Fund 2 include: Apple, Microsoft, iPhone assembler Foxconn, Standard Chartered Bank, Japanese financial giants Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and MUFG Bank.

Others include the National Investment Corporation of National Bank of Kazakhstan and investors from Taiwan.

SoftBank said that the total anticipated capital contribution is expected to rise amid ongoing discussions with other participants. If partners follow through with their financial commitments, the second fund is set to raise more than the ...

Sept. 2, 2019


Famous investor Mark Mobius considers gold the best investment

“I love gold.” Mark Mobius, perhaps the best-known emerging markets investor in the world, reckons that the precious metal should form at least 10% of any investor’s portfolio (in the form of bullion). However, now looks like a particularly promising time to invest – and it’s all down to central bankers, he tells Bloomberg in an interview in Singapore.

For one thing, “interest rates are going so low, particularly now in Europe”. So, as Mobius says, “what’s the sense in holding euro when you get a negative rate? You might as well put it into gold, because gold is a much better currency”. Expectations of even looser monetary policy from central banks across the globe, including the Federal Reserve in the US, have seen gold hit a six-year high this year already (in US dollar terms at least), of close to $1,440 an ounce.

Cutting interest rates isn’t the only factor – ...

Aug. 28, 2019


Softbank Fund Makes Energy-Storage Bet With an Unusual Battery

SoftBank Group Corp.’s massive Vision Fund is making its first-ever energy storage bet -- and it’s on a rather unconventional type of battery.

The fund, created by Japanese tech giant SoftBank Group Corp., is investing $110 million in Energy Vault, a Swiss startup that’s using cranes and concrete to store energy. An electric crane hoists up blocks of concrete and stacks them into a tower when power is plentiful. When power is needed, it uses gravity to take the structure apart brick by brick. The weight of the descending blocks converts kinetic energy into electricity.

The startup faces stiff competition. Huge lithium-ion batteries have emerged as the storage of choice for utilities looking to deal with short-term fluctuations on their grids. The costs of those have plunged 85% since 2010. Entrepreneurs have long pitched alternatives that can hold more energy and supply for longer -- including ones that compress and liquify air ...

Aug. 20, 2019


Saudi Aramco to acquire 20% stake in RIL's oil-to-chemical business

Saudi Aramco and Reliance Industries (RIL) have agreed to a non-binding letter of intent (LoI) regarding a proposed investment in the oil-to-chemicals (O2C) division comprising the refining, petrochemicals and fuels marketing businesses of RIL. Saudi Aramco’s potential 20% stake is based upon an enterprise value of $75bn for the O2C division. This would be one of the largest foreign investments ever made in India.

Saudi Aramco and RIL have a long-standing crude oil supply relationship of over 25 years. Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest and lowest cost-per-barrel producer of crude oil, is geographically close to India, and offers a wide range of crude supply options. 

RIL’s Jamnagar refinery is the largest and most complex refinery in the world, with deep integration of refining and petrochemical activities across multiple manufacturing facilities. The proposed investment would result in Saudi Aramco supplying 500KBPD of Arabian crude oil to the Jamnagar refinery on a long-term ...

Aug. 15, 2019


UK authorities invest nearly $100 million into electric vehicle research

The U.K. government has announced £80 million ($99.7 million) of investment to develop the “next generation of electric vehicles” and, potentially, hybrid aircraft. 

Authorities said that the funding would, among other things, help to reduce carbon emissions from industries including transport, construction and energy.

Industry and academia are set to lead the development of the new technologies, which the government referred to as power electronics, electric machines and drives (PEMD). These are a range of products that can be used to convert fossil fuel-based systems into electric ones using batteries or other electrical sources. 

The investment comes under the umbrella of something called the Industrial Strategy Future of Mobility Grand Challenge. Targets of this challenge include getting rid of diesel rolling stock from the U.K.‘s railways by 2040 and delivering zero-carbon road transport by 2040. 

“It will ensure these industries, both large and small, are rooted here in the U.K. attracting inward investment into ...

Aug. 12, 2019


Total plans $5 billion in asset sales, second quarter net profit falls

French energy giant Total <TOTF.PA> said it will sell assets worth around $ 5 billion mostly from its upstream exploration and production business as it seeks to focus on low breakeven projects that can withstand low oil prices.

The company reported a 19% drop in adjusted net profit in the second quarter at 2.9 billion compared with the same period last year which it attributed to a combination of unfavorable market factors.

These include low oil prices compared with the second quarter of 2018, down 7%, a sharp fall in gas prices, while its refining margin tumbled.

The company, which has carried out a spree of acquisitions and expansion particularly in the gas and electricity market under Pouyanne, said it was preparing its future by focusing on its core strength in the gas segment and deep offshore.

The strategy would be complemented by the divestment of assets that only break even at high oil ...

Aug. 7, 2019


In the EU, real estate is considered one of the most profitable investments

According to Bloomberg, European investors are actively buying property.

The publication notes that last year, housing prices in the Eurozone rose by an average of 4.6%, which is the highest figure since the onset of the financial crisis. The growth in property prices was not affected even by a slowdown in economic growth.

The authors of an article in Bloomberg consider such an increased interest in European real estate an uncontrolled boom.

Real estate economists and consultants predict that for another one to two years, the housing market will continue to grow, generating revenues of about 4%, while Eurozone government debt is struggling to grow by more than 1%.

Economist Alejandro Inurrieta stresses that real estate is one of the few investments that still brings decent income. Fixed income, in his opinion, looks disastrous for large investors, such as pension funds, and even for small investors.

Peter Jun, co-founder of Arminius Group Real Estate Advisor ...

Aug. 2, 2019


Microsoft invests $1 billion in artificial intelligence lab

Microsoft has agreed to invest $1 billion in and partner with research company OpenAI, co-founded by Elon Musk, to develop artificial general intelligence, a technology that could have human-level intellectual capacity. 

The companies said Monday that they will build a hardware and software platform of "unprecedented scale” within Microsoft’s cloud service provider Azure that will train and run increasingly advanced AI models. Microsoft will also become OpenAI’s preferred partner for selling its technologies and the two will jointly develop Azure’s supercomputing technology. 

The companies said applying their shared principles and ethics would "create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way." 

OpenAI, co-founded in 2015 by Musk and other prominent Silicon Valley investors, focuses mainly on artificial general intelligence, which could perform any tasks that humans are capable of, different from existing AI that can do only what people trained them for.

The company said it ...

July 29, 2019


China opens Nasdaq-style board to lure tech firms back home

China’s much-anticipated Science and Technology Innovation board officially launched in Shanghai today, marking Beijing’s major step in drawing high-potential tech companies to list at home.

The new Star Market, first announced by President Xi Jinping in November, is expected to be a key fundraising avenue for tech companies from an array of stages, given its criteria (link in Chinese) are less stringent than other domestic boards. Beijing has over the past year encouraged local firms to become more self-reliant in producing chips and other core technologies as an escalating trade war threatens to cut China off the U.S. supply chain.

The new startup board began taking applications in late March and have so far received applications from 122 companies, according to information from the Shanghai Stock Exchange .

The tech bourse opened as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange next door got a big boost. China’s e-commerce titan Alibaba has filed confidentially for a ...

July 24, 2019


China becomes world’s biggest development lender

Two Chinese banks now provide as much international development finance as the next six biggest multilateral lenders combined but are greatly exposed to political, social and environmental risks, new research says.

In almost doubling the global capital base available for development projects, China has enabled developing countries with less access to international finance to bridge gaping infrastructure and energy shortfalls, according to a study by Boston University’s Global Economic Governance Initiative and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“Such a stepwise increase arrives just in time,” the paper says, pointing out that Western multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) appear to be stagnating in expanding their portfolios.

China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China (CHEXIM) together lent some US$684 billion between 2007 and the end of 2014. The next six biggest lenders, which include the World Bank, the Japanese-led Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, are owed US$700 billion. During the ...

July 19, 2019