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SoftBank Looking To Raise $21.1 Billion Through Share Sell-Off

Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son Speaks To The PressSoftbank Chairman Masayoshi Son Speaks To The Press
SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son will use the IPO to raise capital for investments in tech startups Tomohiro Ohsumi—Getty Images

SoftBank Group Corp. is seeking to raise 2.4 trillion yen ($21.1 billion) in the initial public offering of its domestic telecom operations scheduled for Dec. 19.

The Japanese technology conglomerate plans to sell 1.6 billion shares at 1,500 yen apiece, it said in a statement Monday. The IPO price range will be set on Nov. 30, followed by the final price on Dec. 10.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son is spinning off the company’s cash cow to raise capital to keep making investments in tech startups. The offering comes at a time when the wireless unit faces potential pricing pressure. NTT Docomo Inc., Japan’s biggest mobile carrier, has announced plans to cut rates 40 percent in response to government pressure to reduce peoples’ phone bills. At the same time, Japanese web retailer Rakuten Inc. is jumping into the market as a budget provider.

“Market sentiment is not as good as it used to be, and investor appetite may not be so strong,” said Yasuhide Yajima, chief economist at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. “Still, their focus is on data, AI and communication — industries where they can anticipate growth, so investors can’t exclude SoftBank from their target.”

Domestic telco operations, which include wireless, broadband and fixed-line services, generated 1.8 trillion yen in revenue and 446.9 billion yen of income in the six months to September. Mobile phone offerings accounted for more than 60 percent of sales. SoftBank has close to 34 million wireless subscribers in Japan.

Japan’s mobile carriers have come under government scrutiny for high phone bills and convoluted pricing plans. In August, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said mobile carriers had room to lower bills by 40 percent, even as they step up spending to upgrade their networks. Docomo earlier this month said it plans to “return” 400 billion yen to customers, while KDDI said it won’t follow along because it already introduced lower rates.

Son has said the competition won’t hurt his company’s profits. He said SoftBank aims to cut costs by trimming about 40 percent of the wireless business workforce, largely by introducing automation technology. Some employees will be reallocated to other parts of SoftBank.