SoftBank’s Son Prioritizes AI Investments Over Shareholder Returns

Masayoshi Son aims to create artificial superintelligence, downplaying buyback demands and hinting at potential privatization.

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SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son declared his commitment to artificial intelligence (AI) investments at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Son emphasized that past investments were preparatory for his ultimate goal of developing artificial superintelligence (ASI), which he believes could surpass human intelligence.

Son highlighted opportunities in AI robotics, data centers, and autonomous driving. He stated that SoftBank would need partners to support this vision. The company recently led a $1 billion investment in UK self-driving car start-up Wayve, marking Europe’s largest AI deal to date.

With a strong balance sheet and substantial cash reserves, SoftBank is poised for new investments. Chief Financial Officer Yoshimitsu Goto recently described the group’s loan-to-value level as “maybe too low to be honest, too safe.”

However, Son’s AI focus conflicts with some shareholders’ desires. Elliott Management, which has rebuilt a substantial stake in SoftBank, is pushing for a $15 billion share buyback. Son downplayed buyback discussions, stating that his AI vision takes precedence.

Son also hinted at the possibility of privatizing SoftBank due to the disparity between its market capitalization and asset values. He cited the “Masa Son discount” as a factor, noting the company’s stock price is heavily discounted compared to its assets’ value.

SoftBank’s shares fell over 3% in Tokyo following the annual meeting, reflecting market uncertainty about the company’s future direction and shareholder return policies.

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