SoftBank Group Plans a Bond Market Comeback After a Rare Pause

SoftBank Group Corp. plans on selling more bonds in 2021 after announcing its first issuance in more than a year.

The pace of issuance will keep up with maturities, Chief Financial Officer Yoshimitsu Goto said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News. Last year’s hiatus, the first since the 2008 financial crisis, had to do with the low amounts of debt coming due, Goto said, without commenting further.

SoftBank has about 817 billion yen ($7.9 billion) of bonds maturing by Dec. 31 and roughly another 872 billion yen the following year. The company has so far revealed plans to sell about 100 billion yen of hybrid notes, compared to 1 trillion yen it raised in domestic bonds market in 2019. The sale will be priced this month.

SoftBank Group Plans a Bond Market Comeback After a Rare Pause

Masayoshi Son’s conglomerate is one of Japan’s biggest borrowers with a debt load second only to Toyota Motor Corp., excluding financial institutions. SoftBank’s creditworthiness came under scrutiny in March, when Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company two notches after Son announced plans to buy back as much as 2 trillion yen of its own stock in response to a pandemic-driven market rout. In a rare public spat between a Japanese blue-chip company and one of the leading authorities on corporate debt, SoftBank accused the firm of “bias” and asked Moody’s to withdraw the rating.

The conflict with Moody’s has had no impact on the company’s ability to raise debt so far, nor is it likely in the future, Goto said. While Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings have junk ratings on SoftBank Group, Japan Credit Rating Agency has an A- investment-grade score. S&P on Tuesday revised its outlook on the company to stable from negative on expectations that management will prioritize “financial soundness,” while keeping the rating unchanged.

“Given Moody’s own publicly stated rating criteria, it was a judgment lacking in rationality and fairness,” Goto said in the correspondence with Bloomberg. SoftBank is “continuing to strongly demand a withdrawal of this unsolicited rating,” Goto added.

Moody’s reiterated in an e-mailed statement that its coverage of SoftBank is in line with established policies.

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