SoftBank's Masayoshi Son to visit India; big announcement on Ola expected

SoftBank's Masayoshi Son to visit India; big announcement on Ola expected

SoftBank Group Corp chairman and managing director Masayoshi Son is coming to India early December when the Japanese telecom and Internet conglomerate is expected to make a few high-profile announcements, said two people directly aware of the upcoming visit.

SoftBank is one of the largest investors in some of India's leading consumer Internet companies that include e-commerce platform Snapdeal, cab aggregator Ola, hotel rooms aggregator Oyo, realty portal and e-grocer Grofers.

A SoftBank spokesperson confirmed the development saying Son is coming to India to speak at the Leadership Summit organised by media company HT Media Ltd. The forum's website, however, doesn't list Son as a speaker.

In India, Son is expected to announce a large funding round in Ola during the visit, Techcircle has learnt. Last month, The Times of India had reported that ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which runs Ola, was in talks with its existing investors, including SoftBank, and the US-based General Motors to raise around $500 million in a fresh round of funding.

Founded by Indian entrepreneurs Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati in 2010, Ola has so far raised close to $1.2 billion from marquee investors such as Tiger Global Management and Matrix Partners and is locked in an intense battle with global rival Uber Technologies Inc. Both the companies are burning a huge amount of cash in wooing customers and need to refill their coffers constantly to keep the battle on.

Among SoftBank's other portfolio companies, Snapdeal has also been in the market for the past many months to raise funds but Son is unlikely to announce any big move in the company yet. Earlier this month, in an earnings report, SoftBank had made public that it had written off $555 million of its investment in Ola and Snapdeal.

Even though most of its investments in India have yet to show any signs of profitability, SoftBank has said it is committed to the market. It has, so far, invested $2 billion in India and has informally said it plans to invest $10 billion in the market.

Son's forthcoming visit assumes significance at it comes a few months after the much talked about exit of former SoftBank president Nikesh Arora, who Son had chosen as his successor. Arora left the group in a huff after a group of investors alleged that he misled the Japanese group into making some wrong investments, including some in India, although a panel of SoftBank's independent directors had given a clean chit to him.

Incidentally, this will be Son's second visit to the country this year. He was the chief guest at the Startup India event organised by the Narendra Modi government in Delhi in January.

During his first visit to India in 10 years in 2014, Son had announced big-bang investments amounting to $900 million in Snapdeal, Ola and Housing.

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