Traders say the Softbank ‘whale’ may be back as options activity spikes for Big Tech stocks

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Wall Street traders said that an unusual spike in call options on Thursday shows that Japan’s Softbank may once again be betting on large tech stocks, CNBC’s David Faber reports. 

Multiple sources told Faber that there was $200 million spent on Thursday morning on call options for Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet, with the investment bank being the most likely buyer. 

“A number of sources in the derivative markets on major trading markets noting that significant call buying, and they all point to Softbank as being behind it,” Faber said on “Squawk on the Street.” 

Reports by the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and other outlets identified Softbank as the Nasdaq “whale” whose massive options activity led to a boom for major tech stocks in August. The news led to a sell-off in Softbank’s stock in early September as investors worried about the new strategy for the bank and its CEO Masayoshi Son.

Softbank has traditionally invested in the private markets through its Vision Fund, but appears to have shifted some of its focus to public equities after some high-profile moves soured, including its investment in WeWork. 

Call options allow the traders who hold the options to buy a stock at a predetermined strike price, with the bet being that the stock price will rise above the strike price. Unusually large call buying can lead to other traders buying the stock to cover their positions, driving the market price higher. 

August was a banner month for tech stocks, with the Nasdaq 100 rising by 11%. Some of the stocks that saw unusual options activity that month saw even bigger gains. Shares of Apple soared 21.4%, while Tesla’s stock ripped higher by 74%. 

To be sure, sentiment for those two stocks may also have been helped by other factors, including stock

SoftBank: technology evangelist or hedge fund?

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In fairy tales, a crystal ball can be many things: it can reveal the future, but it can also be a malevolent charm that drives peaceful villagers insane with greed. The former rather than the latter is what Masayoshi Son had in mind in 2016 when, after paying $32bn to buy Arm — the most aggressive gamble of his life at the time — he described the UK chip designer as “my crystal ball”. 

As an investor obsessed for decades with the evolution of communications and software, the SoftBank founder had just bought a company through which he believed he could see the future of every trend in computing, artificial intelligence and the internet of things.

The idea that he possessed magical insight became a formidable tool for one of Asia’s greatest salesmen. It was a pitch that allowed Mr Son to entice billions of dollars from Middle Eastern investors with the promise of betting on the start-ups that would dominate centuries into the future.

Project Crystal Ball, after a quick rebranding, was introduced to the world later that year as the groundbreaking $100bn SoftBank Vision Fund — and its new Gulf backers demanded that a portion of Arm be put in the portfolio.

Today, the vision unlocked by the crystal ball is gone. Mr Son is disposing of Arm for up to $40bn to Nvidia, a US chip company that was worth less than the UK group at the time of SoftBank’s acquisition and is now valued at $330bn. The Vision Fund is fighting to recoup losses in its portfolio and struggling to raise fresh outside money for a sequel fund following a series of disastrous investments in WeWork, the shared workspace company, and other start-ups.

Masayoshi Son at a 2016 press conference announcing SoftBank’s £32bn takeover of Arm

Bear Robotics and SoftBank Robotics Group Announce New Food Service Robot

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New product named Servi set to be the food service delivery robot leader

Bear Robotics, a robotics and artificial intelligence company, and SoftBank Robotics Group, a leading robotics manufacturer and solutions provider, have collaborated to bring a new robot named Servi to the food service and hospitality field. This strategic partnership has brought together Bear Robotics’ unrivaled robotics technology and SoftBank Robotics Group’s vast experience in developing and commercializing service robots. Working together has allowed both companies to meet skyrocketing demand for these autonomous indoor robots in restaurants and other dining venues.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200928005227/en/

Meet Servi, the new line of robots from Bear Robotics (Graphic: Business Wire)

Servi has been developed to be a new member of the food service workforce to assist staff and elevate the overall customer experience. Servi’s agility and object detection put its safety in a class of its own. This has resulted in significant interest in from the hospitality market in Japan, Korea, and the United States. Servi comes with additional features like bussing, drink delivery, and patrol mode. This will allow restaurant and dining hall owners to maximize their operating efficiency, while also elevating service quality to customers.

About Bear Robotics

Bear Robotics is elevating the customer experience in the hospitality industry. Their serving and bussing robots use AI to automate manual work, allowing food servers to focus on delivering outstanding customer service. Backed by SoftBank Group and based in Redwood City, California, Bear Robotics’ multi-award-winning robots operate in restaurants, corporate campuses, ghost kitchens, senior care facilities, and casinos across North America, Asia, and Europe.

About SoftBank Robotics Group

SoftBank Robotics Group is driving technology forward by becoming a worldwide leader in robotics solutions. Rapidly expanding with offices in Tokyo, Paris, London, San Francisco, Boston,