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Malaysia's Axiata says AI unit gets $60 million SoftBank Corp investment

By Reuters

By Liz Lee

KUALALUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysian telecommunications firm Axiata Group Bhd on Tuesday said Japanese peer SoftBank Corp will invest $60 million in its digital analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) arm ADA.

SoftBank will own 23% of ADA via new shares, with its investment valuing the unit at $260 million, Axiata said in a statement.

ADA will use the proceeds to expand in South and Southeast Asia, while SoftBank will establish the unit as its core digital and data marketing partner in Asia, Axiata said.

“(SoftBank) aims to leverage its network of portfolio companies in proposing and providing digital marketing solutions that incorporate ADA’s proprietary technologies and consumer AI models,” Axiata said.

“This alliance with ADA heralds a new theme in this growth strategy as it will enable us to deploy our digital marketing business outside Japan,” said SoftBank Representative Director and Chairman Ken Miyauchi.

ADA Chief Executive Srinivas Gattamneni said in a virtual media briefing that SoftBank’s funds will go into developing and investing in big data platforms, artificial intelligence and automation technology for digital marketing and advertising.

The unit also aims to become a $2 billion business over the next five years, he said.

SoftBank follows compatriot Sumitomo Corp which invested $20 million in ADA in 2018 to support the unit’s expansion.

Sumitomo’s ADA stake will be 13.46% in size after SoftBank’s investment, while Axiata Digital Services, which houses Axiata Group’s digital businesses, will own 63.47%.

Another Japanese conglomerate, Mitsui & Co Ltd, has been a minority strategic shareholder of Axiata Digital Services since 2019.

(Reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; Additional reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christopher Cushing)