Swiss Re opens talks with possible investor


SoftBank said it started preparations to list shares of its core Japanese telecoms unit, SoftBank Corp. They plan to make more transparent how the planned $100bn Vision Fund will benefit SoftBank and how its start-up investments are valued, said the person, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The amount mainly reflects an unrealized gain on valuation of SoftBank's investment in Nvidia Corp.

SoftBank made waves when its huge Vision Fund hit a massive $93 billion first close of a targeted $100 billion total previous year, but already it is clear why the firm is reportedly planning a sequel.

On Tuesday, SoftBank revealed that it had already invested 40 percent of its cash reserves in various deals through the Vision Fund and its partner investment vehicle, the $6 billion Delta Fund. When you throw in the $7.7 billion invested in Uber and $4.6 billion in Didi earlier this year - "significant subsequent events" in the parlance of the report - the funds have spent $40 billion of their eventual $106 billion pool. Operating profit was 274 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in the period ended December, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement on Wednesday. That's less than the ¥293bn average of analysts' projections compiled by Bloomberg.

The group's total interest-bearing debt at the end of December was 15.8 trillion yen ($144.5 billion) and Masayoshi Son said on Wednesday he wants to keep debt levels below 3.5 times earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization. Local media have estimated the proceeds at $18 billion.

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A finance industry source said Swiss Re had always been looking for an anchor shareholder who would recognize the full value of the company. Mr Son, whose acquisition of Vodafone's Japan business in 2006 was the industry's biggest shake-up in recent history, has said he welcomes the competition. The company has 33 million subscribers. Its myriad holdings - which include a stake in Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., U.S. phone operator Sprint Corp., and Yahoo Japan Corp. - tally to at least $180 billion, while its shares trade at half that, Bloomberg's Pavel Alpeyev wrote in an incisive look at the phenomenon.

Discussing his firm's newest fund, Battery Ventures' general partner Roger Lee - an existing Wag investor - told TechCrunch that the fund is "a great partner and complementary resource for companies that have the potential to become category kings".

"Discussions are at a very early stage". That's easy to say, but hard to do.