SINGAPORE (Aug 26): Over the next week or so, bonds issued by governments and companies in Europe and Japan that trade with negative yields will cross the US$17 trillion ($23.5 trillion) mark, or five times the combined size of all the economies in Southeast Asia and 28% of the total outstanding debt worldwide. Governments and companies are essentially getting paid to borrow money, as investors are increasingly desperate for a safe haven for their cash.

In a world awash with cheap money, few investors have made more audacious bets than Masayoshi Son, the billionaire Japanese investor and founder of Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank Group. In recent weeks, Son has been criss-crossing the globe, meeting CEOs of banks, sovereign wealth funds and cash-rich companies who are eager to invest alongside him in a new US$108 billion investment vehicle dubbed Vision Fund 2. His bet is that instead of paying debt-laden governments and companies to look after their money, investors will give him money to make big, outsized bets in technology, particularly in key areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, cloud services, software, social media, fintech and the sharing economy. The goal: to identify and grab stakes in companies capable of dominating their respective industries.

Son’s Vision Fund, dubbed the “kingmaker” of unicorns — private companies with billion-dollar valuations — is looking to add to its portfolio of companies, which includes ride hailing giant Uber Technologies, its Chinese counterpart Didi Chuxing, Southeast Asian lookalike Grab, as well as TikTok and Toutiao owner Bytedance, South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang, India’s top payment systems firm Paytm, UK chip design behemoth ARM Holdings and co-working firm WeWork, which is seeking an IPO in October in what could be one of the most controversial listings in years.

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