The world of business is much more complicated than it used to be.
Things are no longer clear cut, and companies are rarely owned by a single entity. Instead, a sector of the market called holding companies now commonly own significant portions of businesses in a number of industries.
One such holding company is Softbank, a Japanese conglomerate that’s grown rapidly in recent decades.
The great thing about a holding company from a financial standpoint is that it would be very difficult for an established one to fail. Because they house such diversified investments, there’s quite a safety net in place. Softbank certainly falls into this category.
Though they show particular interest in the telecommunications industry (they own about 85% of mobile provider Sprint), they also own significant percentages of companies like Uber, Yahoo Japan, and Wag Labs. Their expressed interest is to be part of a new wave of the information revolution.
Their wide range of investments means that Softbank has a hand in different industries all over the globe, especially in Asia and the United States.
An Entrepreneur’s Vision
In 1981, Masayoshi Son was just 24 years old, but he started his own business anyway. At first, it was simply a computer parts store, but Softbank quickly expanded into the publishing space as well.
It only took a matter of years before the company began exploring other industries after gaining success in its initial spaces. This led to the acquisition of media companies, and heavy investment of early Internet giants like Yahoo.
Because of the massive profits that the company earned in the 1990s, they were able to begin acquiring many companies’ shares rather quickly, eventually growing their holdings to its current status.
A Unique Space
There are no shortage of holding companies in the world today, but they’re difficult to compare as competitors. This is because no two holding companies are exactly alike, since the businesses in which they own stakes are often quite varied.
Still, it’s not out of line to say that other Asian holding companies, like NTT Group, could be considered threats to Softbank. The reality is, though, that Softbank dominates its current space.
Guilty by Association
Marketing has long been an important part of Softbank’s strategy. They hit hard on messages of family in Asia and lean into sponsorships as well. Even these efforts weren’t enough to save them from judgement in light of a 2018 revelation, though.
Softbank made its first foray into the tech space in 2017, investing heavily in tech startups by partnering with Saudi Arabia. Following the disappearance of a prominent journalist in Saudi Arabia, public outcry also fell on Softbank for their association.
In any case, this slip doesn’t appear to have hurt Softbank too badly, as they still rank at number 98 on the Fortune Global 500 for 2019.
It’s hard to know what exactly the future has in store for Softbank, but it’s not far fetched to assume that it will contain quite a bit of success.