SoftBank is selling up 60% stakes in wireless carrier

(Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp said on Friday it planned to slash its exposure to wireless carrier SoftBank Corp in a share sale worth 1.47 trillion yen ($13.8 billion) at Friday’s close, marking an expansion of the conglomerate’s asset sales.

The sale will see SoftBank’s stake fall to 40.4% from 62.1%. The offer price for the 1.03 billion shares, including an over-allotment, will be set Sept. 14-16.

SoftBank Group Chief Executive Masayoshi Son has been selling down the group’s core assets to stabilise its balance sheet and fund a record share buyback amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement marks the expansion of stake sales beyond the 4.5 trillion yen asset sale plan announced in March. One-off gains from the sales boosted the group’s earnings in the April-June quarter.

“In light of the ongoing uncertainty in the market environment due to concerns about a potential second or even third wave of COVID-19, (SoftBank Group) believes it is necessary to expand cash reserves,” the group said in a statement.

Japan’s third-biggest wireless carrier will remain a group subsidiary, SoftBank said, fitting a pattern of the conglomerate exerting influence over listed investments without holding majority stakes.

SoftBank said it will hold the remaining shares “for the medium to long term”. Son built up the wireless carrier but in recent years has refocused on tech investing.

Separately on Friday, SoftBank Corp said it will spend up to 100 billion yen buying back its shares, which have languished even as its parent’s share price has leapt around 140% since March.

SoftBank Corp’s shares closed down 1.6% at 1,431 yen on Friday ahead of the announcement.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Christopher Cushing)


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