Japan's Softbank, IFC plan Net growth fund

TOKYO - High-flying Japanese software house Softbank Corp and World Bank division International Finance are setting up a $500 million investment fund to help build the digital economy in developing countries.The investment venture aims to help start-up Internet companies in 100 developing countries and will be called Softbank Emerging Markets, the organisations said at the weekend.

TOKYO - High-flying Japanese software house Softbank Corp and World Bank division International Finance are setting up a $500 million investment fund to help build the digital economy in developing countries.

The investment venture aims to help start-up Internet companies in 100 developing countries and will be called Softbank Emerging Markets, the organisations said at the weekend. It will be based in California's Silicon Valley.

SBEM will be capitalised with an investment of $200 million, with Softbank owning 75 percent of the investment company and IFC the remainder.

IFC will also join an investment fund Softbank established to help start-up Internet ventures in Latin America which will bring the total investment fund to $500 million, they said.

The partners said SBEM will help the IFC in its goal of using private sector capital to promote sustainable growth in developing countries while Softbank's expertise will help provide models for the new Internet-related companies to grow.

``The historic partnership will play a crucial role in building the new digital economy in developing countries around the world,'' Softbank president Masayoshi Son said.

Last week, Softbank said it would set up a 150 billion yen ($1.4 billion) fund to invest in domestic Web-related firms.

The largest-ever Japanese Internet fund will be set up by the end of March with contributions from institutional investors. It will invest in about 1,500 Japanese Internet-related firms probably at 100 million yen per company, said a spokesman for Softbank Finance.

The fund will come on top of a 12.3 billion yen fund which the company formed for investing in about 80 Japanese Internet-related companies, the spokesman said.

Softbank has branched out from its original business of computer software publishing and taken stakes in more than 150 Web-related firms across the globe, including U.S. Internet provider Yahoo! Inc

Softbank is the majority investor in ZDNet's parent company.

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