SoftBank-backed Japanese startup Uhuru considering London listing

TOKYO (Reuters) - Uhuru, a Japanese startup backed by SoftBank that helps connect devices to cloud services, is considering listing in London as it looks to grow outside of Japan.

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“The London market is very appealing in terms of the amount of capital that can be obtained and the higher profile would give credibility when dealing with global partners,” Uhuru Chief Executive Takashi Sonoda said in an interview.

While Japanese companies like Line Corp have chosen to list in New York in recent years, a London listing would be unusual. Airline ANA Holdings delisted its London shares two years ago.

No decision has been made on the listing, Sonoda said. Preparations toward an initial public offering are underway but he declined to comment on the timing.

Last year the startup received a 500 million yen ($4.50 million) investment from SoftBank Corp. Other investors include Salesforce.Com, Mitsui & Co and Dentsu.

The company declined to provide financial details.

Uhuru opened an office in London last year, putting it in close proximity to Cambridge-based SoftBank subsidiary and business partner Arm, which is expanding its connected devices service business.

Uhuru, a name which means freedom in Swahili, currently has only three staff in London. It would like to expand to 100 people - particularly engineers - in the next few years.

It thinks the U.K., despite Brexit risks, will be an easier place to find talented staff than Silicon Valley where there is more competition. Uhuru has 280 staff in Japan.

While Uhuru also sees growth opportunities in Japan the country lacks risk capital, overseas investors’ attention and analysts looking at small companies, Sonoda said.

Reporting by Sam Nussey; editing by Christian Schmollinger