SoftBank Group Corp. (SFTBY) clearly believes that ride hailing services are the future and is making bets on many of the big international players, including a reported interest now in investing in the U.S. via a stake in Uber Technologies Inc.
The Japanese conglomerate approached Uber about buying shares of the company and its board has voted to continue talking with SoftBank, according to The New York Times. Uber's board is also considering offers from an investor coalition led by Dragoneer Investment Group LLC and General Atlantic LLC, as well as a consortium led by Sherpa Capital's Shervin Pishevar, who was an early investor in Uber. All of the discussions are in the early stages.
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The transactions would reportedly value Uber below its current private valuation of $69 billion, with SoftBank's offer valuing Uber at roughly $45 billion, Recode reported. SoftBank first approached long-time Uber investor and venture capital firm Benchmark Capital Ltd. about buying its stake, but it later abandoned those talks due to differences in price, and has moved onto smaller Uber investors.
Benchmark continues to value Uber at $100 billion. The firm has recently come under pressure from Pishevar and others to sell its share of the company (said to be about 10%) and abandon its seat on the board.
Should Uber's board approve an investment from SoftBank, it would add to Softbank's already tangled web of investments in the rideshare market. Last month, SoftBank led a $2 billion funding round in Grab, Uber's top ride-hailing competitor in Southeast Asia, in addition to its other multi-million dollar investments in India's Olacabs, Brazil's 99Taxis and China's Kuaidi Dache, which merged with rival Didi Dache in 2015 to form the giant Didi Chuxing.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son now seems to have the U.S. in his sights. During an Aug. 7 press conference, Son expressed interest not just in Uber, but also its top rival Lyft Inc.