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SoftBank planning $100bn AI chip venture

Japanese investment firm, SoftBank Group is talking to Middle Eastern funds about supporting an ambitious semiconductor supply venture.

Bloomberg has reported that the Gulf partners will inject USD 70 billion into the project – codenamed Izanagi – while SoftBank will chip in with USD 30 billion. It says the vision is to build advanced AI chips capable of rivalling those designed by Nvidia.

SoftBank is well-placed to embark on such an ambitious project. It had amassed an estimated USD 41 billion in cash and cash equivalents by the end of 2023, and has a 90% stake in Arm, which went public last year. After a shaky start, the Arm investment proved a good move: Arm's share price has doubled since the IPO.

The firm has a track record in making big risky bets – though they don't all work out as well as Arm. Famously it invested a total of USD 18.5 billion in WeWork before the office rental firm exploded spectacularly in 2019 and went bankrupt in 2023. 

Though unconfirmed, news of this possible venture comes just weeks after Softbank was also linked with Sam Altman's much-discussed chip project. The OpenAI CEO is seeking trillions of dollars to fund his plan to create a new network of advanced chip manufacturers.

Reporting said Altman met with Abu Dhabi-based G42 and SoftBank Group, and later with major South Korean chip companies, to discuss funding the project.

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July 23 2024 1:29 am V22.5.13-2