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SoftBank is looking for deals in artificial intelligence, including a potential investment in OpenAI, after British chip designer Arm’s blockbuster listing brought billions of dollars in funding to Son.

The Japanese conglomerate’s founder and CEO plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in artificial intelligence after completing Arm’s initial public offering, two people familiar with Son’s thinking said.

Microsoft-backed OpenAI is one of several options SoftBank is considering for a handful of such deals. SoftBank may also seek to establish a broad strategic partnership with the maker of ChatGPT, these people said.

SoftBank is also looking at a range of alternatives to OpenAI, including significant investments in direct competitors of the ChatGPT maker, they added. They said the company also initially plans to acquire British artificial intelligence chip manufacturer Graphcore.

SoftBank said: “We do not comment on rumors.” OpenAI declined to comment. Graphcore denied receiving an offer from SoftBank.

Analysts said Thursday’s Arm IPO raised nearly $5 billion in proceeds, which would boost SoftBank’s funding to as much as $65 billion, including its own cash and the use of its remaining 90% stake in Arm as loans. Collateral.

Son said in June that he was a “heavy user” of ChatGPT and had developed a close relationship with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. Son described Ultraman as “one of the key figures on Earth” and said he talks to him almost every day.

SoftBank’s mobile unit has formed a business partnership with OpenAI to provide services to Japanese companies looking to deploy generative artificial intelligence technologies such as chatbots. The service is based on the Azure computing platform developed by Microsoft, which is OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider. Earlier this year, Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI through a multi-year agreement, according to people familiar with the matter.

The SoftBank mobile subsidiary also said it hopes to develop its own Japanese version of ChatGPT.

Son’s enthusiasm for dealmaking has rebounded strongly in recent months, with the prolific technology investor saying in June that he would return to “offensive mode,” according to people close to Son’s inner circle.

Son was in a self-declared “defensive mode” during the coronavirus pandemic and the tech industry downturn in 2022, during which new deals fell sharply and the company began to strengthen its cash position. After focusing on Arm in the months leading up to its IPO, its successful listing allowed Son to resume trading with renewed vigor, according to people familiar with the matter.

Son has broader ambitions, hoping to turn his Japanese technology group into a credible competitor in artificial intelligence, including the chips that power the technology.

Currently, the biggest winner in the field of artificial intelligence is Nvidia. The Silicon Valley-based company dominates the market for artificial intelligence chips and has a market value of more than $1 trillion this year. SoftBank took a stake in the chipmaker in 2017 but sold it in 2019.

Arm is pitching artificial intelligence as a key part of its growth story to investors during its IPO roadshow this month as it looks to diversify into the core smartphone market and expand its presence in cloud computing.

However, analysts say Arm plays a much smaller role than Nvidia in creating the large language models that power ChatGPT.

Additional reporting by Richard Waters, Sam Agini and Tim Bradshaw


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