Softbank invests $1bn in space satellite startup OneWeb

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Japanese technology giant Softbank is investing $1bn (£806m) in US space start-up OneWeb.

Softbank founder Masayoshi Son said it was the “first step” in a pledge made to US President-elect Donald Trump about US investment.

OneWeb is working on satellites that will help bring faster internet to developing countries.

Softbank’s investment will give it a 40% stake in the Florida-based firm, making it the biggest shareholder.

The deal will create about 3,000 jobs.

Earlier this month Mr Son met Mr Trump and said he would put $50bn into US businesses and create 50,000 jobs over the next four years,

‘Disruptive’

Florida-based OneWeb, which is a direct rival to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is now estimated to be worth around $2.5bn following its latest funding round. It also received another $200m from existing investors including Airbus, Virgin, India’s Bharti and chipmaker Qualcomm.

“SoftBank has a long history of investing in disruptive, foundational technologies that promise to help us realize the future sooner,” Mr Son said in a statement.

“OneWeb is a tremendously exciting company poised to transform internet access around the world. America has always been at the forefront of innovation and technological development and we are thrilled to be playing a part in continuing to drive that growth as we work to create a truly globally connected ecosystem.”

Internet of Things

Mr Son is known to have an eye for potentially transformative industries and trends. He was an early investor in Alibaba and saw the potential in e-commerce before anyone else did.

He has also embarked on an aggressive spending spree aimed at expanding Softbank’s footprint in the so-called Internet of Things, which will see billions of devices becoming interconnected.

Softbank acquired UK technology firm ARM Holdings in July for $32bn. The Cambridge-based firm designs microchips used in many smartphones, including those of Apple and South Korea’s Samsung.

It has previously bought Vodafone’s Japanese operations and the US telecoms company Sprint. The $20bn deal was the biggest foreign acquisition by a Japanese firm at the time.

In October, Softbank also partnered with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to launch a technology fund worth as much as $100bn.

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