Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Group Corp. is aiming to acquire a large stake in Uber Technologies at a steep discount, reportedly hoping to spend $6 billion to acquire shares in the ride-hailing company at a significant discount from its latest valuation.

Uber, which is currently valued at $69 billion, has had a rough year, dealing with a series of key scandals including a hushed up security breach and a range of sexual harassment lawsuits.

SoftBank, as well as its partners, hopes to acquire as much as $6 billion of stock in Uber with a 30 per cent discount, pricing the ride-hailing company at $48 billion rather than its current $69 billion valuation.

The deal, should it go through, would be one of the largest ever acquisitions of stock in a private company.

SoftBank’s potential partners include firms General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group, a “long-only, growth-oriented public and private” investment group based in San Francisco. Uber’s management has reportedly been responsive to the offer of outside investment from SoftBank.

For Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, a deal with SoftBank could be an opportunity for Uber to raise new funds while gaining a large, powerful supporter to help the company move forward after a tough year.

2017 has been a difficult period for Uber as a company. The company was forced to admit its role in covering up a major security breach that affected over 55 million users and drivers. The company’s previous CEO, Travis Kalanick, also resigned after a workplace culture scandal.

Part of SoftBank’s interest in the deal could be Uber’s negative public image. Kirk Boodry, an analyst at New Street Research, stated in Bloomberg that SoftBank’s deal could be aimed at achieving a price that “builds in all the negative news” about Uber.

Uber has had an extremely challenging year, facing everything from sexual harassment issues to a security breach that cost the company the trust of both its drivers and customers. It’s also currently stuck in a criminal probe over its alleged attempts to spy on its rivals.

The probe recently turned up revelations that Uber’s employees used encrypted messages to “spy” on its competitors without a record of communications. Employees were reportedly told how to destroy “sensitive” messages to reduce the risk of messages leaking to the public.

Uber is alleged to have spied on rival Waymo, formerly the Google Self-Driving Car Project, in a bid to steal corporate trade secrets. Richard Jacobs, Uber’s former corporate surveillance team manager, was one of the most recent members of the company to testify in court.

The ride-hailing company is also facing a multimillion-dollar consumer protection lawsuit over its role in covering up a major security breach. The lawsuit, filed in Washington, could result in fines for the company over its lack of efforts to properly respond to the hacking break-in.

For SoftBank, Uber’s mounting scandals are almost certainly viewed as a liability, but also as an opportunity for the well-known telecommunications giant to acquire shares in fast-growing Uber at a significant discount.

Elliot Preece
Emily Bennet