SoftBank Clashes Again With Moody’s Over Credit Rating

SoftBank Group Corp. criticized Moody’s again over its credit-rating practices, escalating a conflict between one of Japan’s heaviest borrowers and one of the leading authorities on corporate debt.

The Tokyo-based company said on Friday it had not sought ratings from Moody’s and a report from the firm this week is “based on their subjective assumptions and hypotheses with no reasonable basis for support.” Moody’s said in response Friday that its coverage of SoftBank is in line with its established policies.

The rating company said in a credit opinion on Thursday that its negative outlook on SoftBank reflects its expectations that uncertainties from the company’s “large asset recycling activity and unfolding investment strategy will persist over the next 12-18 months.” Volatile capital market conditions could weaken the valuation of the group’s investee companies, according to Moody’s. The rating assessor also noted credit strengths including “a substantial amount of cash at the holding company level.”

The clash between SoftBank and Moody’s dates back to March of last year, as the company run by billionaire Masayoshi Son was struggling to make its way through the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Moody’s downgraded the company two notches after it announced plans to buy back as much as 2 trillion yen of its own stock and cautioned it could cut further.

SoftBank blasted the firm in response and accused it of “bias” that would create “substantial misunderstanding.” SoftBank said Friday that it has provided “no information” to Moody’s since it withdrew its request for a rating in March 2020.

Moody’s responded Friday that in accordance with its policies, it “may choose to assign or maintain a credit rating on an unsolicited basis for a number of reasons, including when the unsolicited credit rating would provide an informational benefit to market participants and/or the amount of the total debt or debt-like obligations issued is significant.”

SoftBank’s share price has surged since the dark days of the pandemic, rising about 150% since that clash. Its bonds also rebounded sharply last year.

The Japanese technology conglomerate is preparing to sell about 100 billion yen ($963 million) of hybrid bonds this month, which would be the first note issuance for the group entity in more than a year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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