SoftBank Group Reportedly Drops $100 Mln Investment In IPhone Rival

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( - SoftBank Group Corp. scrapped a planned $100 million investment in a smartphone startup founded by the creator of Google's Android software, partly because of the Japanese investor's increasingly close relationship with Apple Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The planned investment would have valued the startup, Essential Products Inc., at $1 billion. It had already been agreed to informally, and final investment contracts were being drawn up, the report said.

The offer banked on the pedigree of Essential founder Andy Rubin, who sold his previous startup, Android, to Googleâ€"now a unit of Alphabet Inc.â€"in 2005, then helped turn its software into the world's most used smartphone operating system, powering devices rivaling Apple's iPhone.

In January, Apple agreed to commit $1 billion to the Vision Fund. Though Apple didn't block the Essential deal, according to the journal, its investment complicated SoftBank's interest in a competing smartphone company. In February, after months of negotiations and when final investment contracts were being drawn up, Mr. Son backed out of the deal.

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