SoftBank tries to turn dog into unicorn

A pug dog is dressed up in costume as she trick or treats with her owners during Halloween in Encinitas, California, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

NEW YORK, July 26 (Reuters Breakingviews) - A cursory glance at any city park confirms that the last year has created millions of new dog owners. Now Japanese investment giant SoftBank (9984.T) has a new pet of its own: canine DNA test-in-a-box maker Embark, into which it just plowed $75 million at a $700 million valuation.

Embark’s goal is to extend dog life spans by three years, something that will tug at the heartstrings and wallets of pet owners. Pet sitter network Rover reckons U.S. petcare spending is a $95 billion opportunity. Even SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son’s dog is among the company’s canine subjects.

But can it prolong the puppyish youthfulness of the petcare market? SoftBank may be arriving a little late. Petcare retailer Chewy’s (CHWY.N) shares tripled last year but are flat in 2021 so far. Meanwhile, shares in the blank-check firm that acquired human DNA collector 23andMe (ME.O) are down one-third since mid-June. Owning a dog requires love and patience but also plenty of discipline. (By John Foley)

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