Saudi Billionaire Resumes Global Deal-Making

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

His new investments come as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also bets heavily on tech companies to draw know-how and expertise to the kingdom. Those efforts are part of the de facto Saudi ruler's long-term plan--called Vision 2030--to reshape the kingdom's oil-reliant economy by boosting the private sector. The country's sovereign-wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has amassed a nearly 5% stake in electric-car maker Tesla Inc., a senior Saudi adviser familiar with the matter said Tuesday. PIF already has taken a 45% stake in SoftBank Group Corp.'s $100 billion Vision Fund and made a $3.5 billion bet on Uber Technologies Inc. SoftBank is hiring the head of Deutsche Bank AG's unit in Saudi Arabia to lead a new office in Riyadh, with the goal of encouraging the Vision Fund's portfolio startups to set up in Saudi Arabia. "The Saudis likely see these technologies and firms are going to be part of the future…as Saudi Arabia looks to diversify away from hydrocarbon industries," said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.


Billions in dirty cash helped fuel Vancouver's housing boom

The Japan Times

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Vancouver penthouses, ski chalets at Whistler, and holiday retreats in Persian Gulf islands are among the thousands of properties identified in a dirty-money probe that estimates more than 7 billion Canadian dollars ($5 billion) was laundered through British Columbia last year. The startling findings from two reports released by the provincial government Thursday illustrate how a torrent of suspicious cash has fueled casinos, luxury car sales and real estate in the Pacific Coast region. "The amount of money being laundered in B.C. is more than anyone predicted," Finance Minister Carole James told reporters Thursday, referring to the western Canadian province. In real estate alone, an estimated C$5 billion may have been laundered last year in the province -- equivalent to 4.6 percent of all transactions by value in that period, according to one of the reports. In the Vancouver region, where housing prices rose more than 70 percent in five years, "I certainly believe that money laundering played a part," James said.


Saudi launches awareness campaign before female motorists drive

Al Jazeera

A mixture of excitement and fear has enveloped the religiously conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it awaits the lifting of a decades-long ban on women driving on June 24. In only three days the Saudi kingdom, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, will see women driving side-by-side as their male counterparts for the first time. In a statementon Twitter, the ministry of information announced that educational events will be held in Riyadh, Damam, Jeddah and Tabuk during the evening hours of the next three days to "introduce women to road safety regulations and help break the barrier of fear". The events will depend on electronic simulators, educational stations and competitions to help "familiarise women with the techniques of using a car," the statement said. The ministry hopes the activities it has set up will help "instill the principle of safety first" and "showcase [to female motorists] the importance of using seat belts", according to the statement.


SoftBank's Son chases boyhood dreams with $100 billion fund

The Japan Times

When Masayoshi Son was a boy growing up in Kyushu, he kept a notebook to scribble down inventions he hoped to create one day. Today, the SoftBank founder has almost $100 billion to invest in making the next big thing a reality. Son's SoftBank Group Corp. closed the first round of a planned $100 billion investment fund, with money raised from Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, as well as Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. The Vision Fund gives the 59-year-old access to a pool of capital unparalleled in the worlds of private equity or venture capital -- the equivalent of four Silver Lakes or 15 Sequoia Capitals. He has said, without irony, that he has a 300-year plan for SoftBank and aims to build the world's most valuable company.


One $100 Billion Tech Fund Isn't Enough for SoftBank CEO

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

In just under a year since the fund's launch, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has identified target investments for more than half of the existing Vision Fund's promised capital, deploying billions of dollars at a pace that is transforming tech investment. The fund's portfolio includes stakes in semiconductor firms such as ARM Holdings PLC and Nvidia Corp. and office-share company WeWork Companies Inc. SoftBank also plans to have the fund absorb investments in ride-hailing companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and China's Didi Chuxing Technology Co. The scale of the Vision Fund, and the pace of its investing--its choices often driven by Mr. Son's gut--is compelling other funds such as Sequoia Capital to raise billions of dollars to better compete. Current investors--which include the sovereign-wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi and technology giants such as Apple Inc., Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and Foxconn Technology Group--are extremely happy with the fund's performance, he said, and institutional investors are also showing interest. SoftBank expects to close the fund with a total of $100 billion in committed investments by the end of May, The Journal earlier reported.