Apple said to be interested in participating in SoftBank's $100B tech fund

Apple's participation in the fund would presumably give the tech giant more of a presence in emerging technologies like AI and IoT. Image: Apple

Apple has talked with SoftBank about participating in a $100 billion technology fund being raised by the Japanese company, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The firms have discussed an investment of as much as $1 billion, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. SoftBank announced in October that it would form the Vision Fund with the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and invest at least $25 billion in it over the next five years.

SoftBank reportedly hoped to use the fund to gain footing in young technologies and markets such as artificial intelligence and the IoT. Apple’s participation would presumably give the iPhone vendor more of a presence in those segments as well.

No deal had been announced and the status of the negotiations is unknown.

SoftBank, which owns Sprint, will invest $50 billion in the U.S., President-elect Donald Trump said last week, in an effort to create 50,000 jobs. The money for that investment will reportedly come from the Vision Fund.

Last week’s announcement stoked increased speculation speculation of a tie-up between Sprint and T-Mobile. SoftBank overtly pursued T-Mobile a few years ago in the hopes of merging the two U.S. carriers, creating a market with three major players of roughly the same size. That effort was stymied when federal regulators indicated they were opposed to major consolidation in the market.

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Shares of both U.S. carriers have climbed in recent weeks due in part to speculation that a Trump administration would be more welcome of a merger than Obama’s administration has been.

Sprint’s customer base has grown significantly in 2016 thanks primarily to aggressive promotions such as its offer to halve the monthly bills of customers who switch from its rivals. The operator saw 347,000 net postpaid phone additions during the most recent quarter, well outpacing the 275,000 predicted by Wells Fargo Securities.

Sprint appears to gradually be regaining its financial stability as well under SoftBank, although much of that progress has come through severe budget cuts. Walter Piecyk of BTIG Research noted via Twitter that Sprint’s headcount has been reduced by 9,000 jobs since SoftBank bought the carrier in 2013, and its annual capital investment has been cut by 70%.