SoftBank Group Corp. has quietly built a $5 billion stake in Roche Holding AG, placing a bet on the pharmaceutical company’s strategy of using data to develop drugs, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Japanese conglomerate is now one of Roche’s largest investors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Roche’s sales have recently been boosted by its Covid-19 testing business. The company’s diagnostics unit reacted swiftly to the coronavirus pandemic, but the pharmaceuticals division, where aging cancer medicines face increasing competition, has had a more difficult time.
Shares of the Basel, Switzerland-based company have risen 8.8% in the last 12 months, compared with a 14.7% gain in the MSCI World Pharma Biotech & Life Sciences index over the same period.
Roche shares rose as much as 1% in early trading on Wednesday. The drugmaker has a dual-class share structure with separate voting and non-voting shares. The founding families own 50.1% of the voting class, while cross-town rival Novartis AG holds one-third. It’s unclear which types of shares SoftBank holds.