Four Things to Know About SoftBank’s $50 Billion Promise

December 7, 2016, 3:49 PM UTC
President-elect Donald Trump stands with SoftBank Group Corp. founder and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son in the lobby of Trump Tower on Dec. 6, 2016 in New York.
Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

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SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son is on Team Trump, and Trump is on Team SoftBank. On Tuesday, Son promised Trump he will invest $50 billion in the U.S. to create 50,000 jobs. A few thoughts:

  1. This is not new money. It’s projected to come from SoftBank’s previously announced $100 billion tech investment fund, which is backed by Trump’s favorite country, Saudi Arabia.
  1. SoftBank has not exactly been a job creator in the U.S. As BTIG telecom analyst Walt Piecyk points out, Sprint (S) has cut its headcount by 9,000 and reduced capital investment by 70% since SoftBank bought it three years ago.
  1. Son says he likes Trump’s stance on deregulation. He likely means antitrust scrutiny, which killed SoftBank’s original plan to buy Sprint and merge it with T-Mobile (TMUS). Sprint and Son still want to do that deal, even though T-Mobile’s stock has risen about 220% since 2013. But I’d have to imagine that merger would create more “synergies” than it would jobs.
  1. Son has been a master of surprise lately (always? but especially lately). In 2015 he flirted with taking SoftBank private in what would be the largest management buyout ever (SoftBank’s astonishing $120 billion in debt notwithstanding). Then he announced plans to hand off his company to Nikesh Arora so he could retire. Then he changed his mind and within weeks, SoftBank was spending $32 billion on chipmaker ARM Holdings and creating a $100 billion tech investment fund. It’s fun to watch Son and SoftBank in action, but a roller-coaster for SoftBank shareholders investors.

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