Arm Holding, the UK-headquartered chip company made a successful debut on Nasdaq last week. The company, which initially sold its shares in the IPO at $51 each, is currently trading at $60.75 per share, giving it a market cap of nearly $86 billion. The biggest winner in Arm’s blockbuster IPO is Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank which owns 90 percent of the company.
The Japanese technology conglomerate, which has risen to become one of the most prolific investors in tech startups in the United States, has experienced a slow two years due to failures such as WeWork and Wirecard. The company’s Vision Fund lost $32 billion in the financial year ending in March.
However, with the early success of Arm, SoftBank is once again looking to deploy large amounts of capital and is considering investing tens of billions of dollars in AI, Financial Times reported on Saturday citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
Masayoshi Son is considering investing in or entering a strategic partnership with OpenAI as part of these efforts, the report said, adding that the Japanese firm is also exploring various alternatives to ChatGPT-maker, including its direct rivals. The report does not disclose any names, but notable rivals of OpenAI among venture-backed companies include Anthropic, Cohere, and Inflection.
Graphcore, a UK-based semiconductor company specializing in AI and machine learning chip development, has attracted preliminary acquisition interest from SoftBank, noted the report. The British firm has denied receiving an offer from SoftBank.
Earlier this year, during a shareholders’ meeting of a subsidiary, SoftBank’s chairman, Masayoshi Son, had told the shareholders, “I chat with ChatGPT every day – I am a heavy user.” He had also said that he was speaking with OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman almost everyday. The SoftBank chairman considers Altman as “one of the key people on Earth.”
While it’s too early to definitively predict whether his friendship with the OpenAI CEO will secure the deal, his proven expertise in dealmaking certainly bolsters his prospects. OpenAI’s largest investor and current partner is Microsoft, which earlier this year announced a multi-year (complicated) deal to invest $10 billion in the AI firm.
SoftBank’s mobile unit established an entity in March with 1,000 employees to develop its own large language model that utilizes the Japanese language.
Responding to Financial Times request for comment on the development, SoftBank said that they don’t comment on rumors and OpenAI declined to comment.