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Temasek Holdings in talks to invest in OpenAI: FT

Bryan Wu
Bryan Wu • 3 min read
Temasek Holdings in talks to invest in OpenAI: FT
Senior executives at Temasek have met OpenAI’s Sam Altman multiple times over recent months, according to FT's sources. Photo: Bloomberg
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Temasek Holdings is in discussions to invest in OpenAI, in a deal that would mark the first time a state-backed group has funded the ChatGPT maker, according to a report by the Financial Times.

Senior executives at Temasek have met OpenAI’s chief executive Sam Altman multiple times over recent months, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Another person familiar with the talks said Temasek had initially been interested in investing in Altman’s venture capital fund Hydrazine Capital, but more recent meetings had included OpenAI itself.

The Financial Times source added that the talks were preliminary but ongoing, with no agreement on the size of any investment.

OpenAI and Temasek declined to comment on the discussions.

Singapore plans to invest over $1 billion over the next five years to boost its AI capabilities, according to the government's Budget 2024 announcement in February.

See also: OpenAI scale ranks progress toward `human-level' problem solving

On the OpenAI side, the negotiations come as Altman seeks to fund ambitious plans to launch a semiconductor business that would allow OpenAI to reduce its dependence on cutting-edge chips made by Nvidia.

Estimates of the cost of building out AI infrastructure from Altman and others have varied from the hundreds of billions of dollars to as high as US$7 trillion over coming years — figures that price out traditional tech venture capitalists.

Temasek’s US$287 billion portfolio includes some of the world’s top tech start-ups including payments group Stripe.

See also: Microsoft, Apple avoid OpenAI’s board as US scrutiny grows

AI is a key focus for investment, according to the fund’s management. Among its existing investments in the space are UK legal technology company Robin AI, South Korean fabless AI chip start-up Rebellions and Silicon Valley-based generative AI chip designer d-Matrix.

In November last year, Altman was ousted by the OpenAI board over allegations that he had not been “consistently candid” in his dealings with them; he was reinstated days later.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued subpoenas to OpenAI executives in November as part of an investigation into whether Altman had misled its investors, according to people familiar with the move.

The controversy, however, has not soured the appetite of institutional investors such as Temasek, which has continued its discussions with Altman in the aftermath, says the Financial Times.

Temasek’s interest in OpenAI reflects its increasingly global footprint over the past decade. Before 2014, the investment company had no offices in developed countries but now its presence outside of Asia stretches from Paris and London to San Francisco and New York.

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