SoftBank Group Corp. will continue to invest in Latin America this year, focusing on industries including e-commerce, health care and fintech.
As part of its $5 billion Latin America Fund launched in the first quarter of 2019, the Japanese giant plans to dole out $1 billion in 2020, adding to last year's $1.6 billion. It's poured $100 million to $150 million into each of 17 companies and two venture capital firms so far, though the playing field is bigger: SoftBank has its sights on roughly 650 firms in the region.
"We are focused on investing in companies that could achieve long-term profitability," Andres Freire, a managing partner and head of SoftBank's Southern Cone region, said during a roundtable with reporters in Buenos Aires. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are in the spotlight, and Freire said there's no preset amount by nation.
SoftBank's investments include the Colombia-based delivery startup Rappi, Brazil fitness company Gympass and Argentine fintech Uala. The firm's expansion in Latin America is also looking at startups that apply artificial intelligence to food-related businesses, especially those focused on plant-based food.
It's "paying special attention" to two companies from Brazil, one from Peru and one from Chile, Freire said.
In addition to the investments, SoftBank will launch an 11-week program with the Correlation One foundation to train and potentially hire future AI experts, he said. The firm will also continue to invest directly in venture capital firms, after taking a $130 million stake in Kaszek Ventures and making a $100 million investment in Valor Capital Group in 2019.
More than 50 percent of the startups the regional fund has invested in are from Brazil.