Eastern promise

Japan's SoftBank Eyes Up Swiss Re

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss insurer Swiss Re is seen in front of its headquarters in Zurich
Some objects appear as big as they really are. Source: Reuters

Speculation is rife whether SoftBank has gone sweet on reinsurance giant Swiss Re, following a mysterious surge in the latter’s stock price this week. Is the Japanese telecoms and technology investor seeking access to additional capital for its growing ventures? Or merely seeking reliable returns? Whatever its true motivation, SoftBank, which cut its teeth in the internet dot-com boom, always has savvy and very specific plans for its prey, say investors in the reinsurance market.

SoftBank “discovered something in Swiss Re’s figures or business model that we haven’t yet seen,” mused one big UK investor. That discovery could lie in the bulging balance sheets of Swiss Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer with a €130 billlion investment portolio. A strategic investor could conceivably shake free funding to invest in success stories like Supercell, the Finnish mobile game-development company that Softbank nurtured and sold in 2016. SoftBank has proved to have a nose for future trends, by investing in hot properties such as chip manufacturer ARM, taxi company Uber and office-sharing service WeWork.

The Zurich-based company refused to disclose details, merely confirming that talks are at an early stage and an agreement isn’t certain. SoftBank, meanwhile, has refused to comment. The Wall Street Journal has reported that SoftBank could acquire up to one-third of Swiss Re’s shares for $10 billion or more.

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