Uber, Lyft Are Both the Object of Masayoshi Son's Interest

Travis Kalanick's Tumultuous Reign at Uber

SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son expressed interest in the U.S. ride-hailing market, saying that he would be willing to invest in Uber Technologies Inc. or rival Lyft Inc.

It’s the clearest indication yet that Son is serious about putting cash on the table. SoftBank has backed Uber’s competitors elsewhere, including China’s Didi Chuxing, India’s Ola and Grab in Southeast Asia. That had fueled the notion that Son is helping to organize an anti-Uber alliance.

Masayoshi Son during a news conference in Tokyo on Aug. 7.

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

But last month, reports emerged that SoftBank was looking to take a stake in Uber by buying shares from existing investors, according to people familiar with the matter. That was preceded by news in May that a SoftBank executive met with Lyft President John Zimmer. Now, it’s clear the Japanese billionaire wants to push into the U.S. market one way or another.

“We are interested in discussing with Uber, we are also interested in discussing with Lyft,” Son told analysts and reporters after an earnings announcement Monday. “We have not decided which way. But the U.S. is a very big market. It’s the most important market, so we are definitely very much interested.”

These are typical remarks by an executive used to making bold bets and pronouncements, which sometimes confound competitors and partners. He didn’t say whether the investment would made by the Japanese company or the planned $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund. Son has also looked at investing in rivals in India’s e-commerce market.

On Monday, Son indicated that he was interested in talking to both Uber and Lyft at the same time.

“So whether we decide to partner and invest into Uber or Lyft, I don’t know what would be the end result, but we are definitely interested,” he said. “And we are interested in exploring the idea and would like to discuss it with both companies.”

Son said autonomous driving and ride-hailing technologies make it even more critical for SoftBank to push into the industry: “The autonomous car is definitely coming. And when that stage comes, this ride sharing business becomes even more important. That’s my opinion.”

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