SoftBank Group to Sell $12.5 Billion of Wireless Unit Stock
Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk past a SoftBank Corp. store in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

SoftBank Group to Sell $12.5 Billion of Wireless Unit Stock

Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group Corp. said it will sell about 1.33 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) of the stock it holds in its Japanese wireless operation, adding to massive asset sales that have helped his conglomerate get back on track after missteps with startup investments.

The Tokyo-based parent said it will sell 927 million shares in SoftBank Corp. through a global secondary offering, about a third of its stake. The carrier’s stock, which closed at 1,431.5 yen on Friday, will be sold at a discount of 3% to 5%. Separately, the wireless unit said it will buy back up to 1.68% of its shares for about 100 billion yen.

Son, founder and chief executive officer, has turned around his company’s fortunes since March by selling off assets and repurchasing his own stock. SoftBank Group had previously announced plans to sell about 4.5 trillion yen in assets and had said it was almost done with that program. Son has used the proceeds to pay down debt and embark on 2.5 trillion yen in buybacks.

“The question is what will the money be used for,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore. “It could just as likely be used for more buybacks or another wild acquisition.”

SoftBank plans to sell 223.5 million shares to overseas investors in Europe and Asia, excluding the U.S. and Canada, with an extra allotment of 33.5 million shares. Domestic investors will get 670.5 million shares. The company aims to hand over the shares between Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, or five business days after the pricing and other details are settled.

SoftBank Group shares have more than doubled from their lows in March to 6,397 yen a share, as the company repurchased about 1 trillion yen worth of stock. Two more tranches totaling 1.5 trillion yen still remain, one running until March 31 next year and another until July 30.

The past few months have been a whirlwind of deals for SoftBank. In addition to an earlier sale of $2.9 billion of SoftBank Corp. shares, the company has offloaded $13.7 billion of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. stock and a stake in T-Mobile US Inc. for about $20 billion. Son has also said that he is looking to sell or take public Arm Ltd., the chip design firm that he bought four years ago for $32 billion.

In addition to paying down more debt and further buybacks, Son could use the proceeds in several ways. Earlier this month, he unveiled a new asset management arm with about $3.9 billion of investments into 25 of the world’s largest technology companies including Amazon.com Inc., Tesla Inc., Netflix Inc. and Alphabet Inc. The portfolio of public stocks could exceed $10 billion, according to people familiar with the initiative.

SoftBank has also emerged as one of the participants in the bidding for the short-video app TikTok in the U.S. It was part of the consortium together with Google parent Alphabet and Walmart Inc. that has since dissolved, according to a person familiar with the matter. SoftBank owns a minor stake in TikTok’s parent ByteDance Ltd.

Son has said he plans to raise a successor to his $100 billion Vision Fund every two to three years. But a string of missteps, including a meltdown at WeWork, and the coronavirus virus outbreak led to a record loss of almost $18 billion in the business, scuttling fund-raising plans. With billions of dollars in cash, Son could afford to go it alone for the foreseeable future.

SoftBank said it is expanding its cash reserves beyond the asset sales already announced “to ensure flexible options to respond to changes in the market environment.” The company cited “the ongoing uncertainty in the market environment due to concerns about a potential second or even third wave of COVID-19.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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