SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son made a surprise appearance at Trump Tower today where he appears to have worked out a deal with the president-elect to invest $50 billion in the US over the next four years and create 50,000 new jobs.
Details of the planned investment are basically nonexistent, but it’s more than likely that it involves Sprint, which represents SoftBank’s main presence in the US. Sprint has been struggling since its acquisition by SoftBank in 2012, falling into fourth place among wireless carriers, behind T-Mobile, and cutting jobs in the face of rocky financials.
"I just came to celebrate his new job. We were talking about it. Then I said I would like to celebrate his presidential job and commit, because he would do a lot of deregulation,” Son said, according to Reuters. “I said this is great. The United States would become great again.”
It wasn’t stated what Trump offered, aside from a lighter regulatory environment, to entice SoftBank.
Speculatively, the figures could indicate a proposed acquisition of T-Mobile, which currently has a market cap just above $45 billion. The possibility of an acquisition was much discussed in 2013 and 2014; but SoftBank eventually gave up on its dream of a merger, fearing that a regulators — particularly the Federal Communications Commission, which currently says that four nationwide carriers are necessary for a competitive wireless market — would shoot the deal down.
Under Trump, that almost certainly won’t be a concern.
But that still wouldn’t entirely explain the details of a presentation Son showed reporters. It suggests Foxconn will also be involved in the investment somehow, indicating that factory jobs could be under discussion as well. The sheet indicates an additional $7 billion and another 50,000 new jobs that Trump didn’t mention when announcing the terms of their agreement.
Foxconn is an investor in SoftBank’s robotics business, which aims “to bring Pepper” — a customer service robot — “and other robotics businesses to global markets.” That doesn’t necessarily mean the manufacturing of those robots was meant to go global, but Trump seems to be interested in creating the type of environment that would encourage such an investment.
The US has been steadily adding jobs for the last six years, with 178,000 added just last month.
Trump and Son both appear to have signed the bottom of the presentation. A SoftBank representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.