SoftBank Group increased its stake in Sprint Corp. a second time this month, acquiring ¥7.51 billion($73 million) of stock in the unprofitable U.S. wireless operator.
The Japanese carrier paid for 16.8 million shares, according to Bloomberg calculations based on a SoftBank filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. The latest purchase follows an earlier ¥10.86 billion ($87 million) investment in Sprint that the Tokyo-based company announced Aug. 13.
SoftBank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son has reiterated his commitment to Sprint as it shows signs of recovery after recording its third consecutive gain in subscribers. Son has said he already sees “light at the end of the tunnel” for the carrier, which booked losses in six out of the past seven quarters, but the turnaround may take two years.
“If they believe Sprint stock is highly undervalued, they will continue to invest in Sprint,” Marcelo Claure, the U.S. carrier’s CEO, said in an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg Television.
As part of his turnaround plan, Claure has focused on network improvements, half-price offers and tablet promotions to lure customers. He’s also cut operating costs, helping boost earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to ¥250 billion ($2.08 billion) in the fiscal first quarter that ended June 30. That topped the ¥215 billion ($1.8 billion) average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
At the same time, the company has been burning through cash. Sprint’s cash and equivalents fell about ¥250 billion ($2 billion) during the fiscal first quarter, which was 2.5 times the decrease in the period a year earlier. And even with the recent subscriber additions, the carrier fell behind T-Mobile U.S. Inc. as the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier.
The acquisition raises SoftBank’s stake to slightly more than 80 percent, said Hiroe Kotera, a spokeswoman for SoftBank in Tokyo. The company has said it will limit its holding to no more than 85 percent, which would make Sprint a target for delisting.
“We are on the verge of a massive Sprint turnaround, and we feel very good about our prospects,” Claure said. “And that’s why SoftBank continues to invest in Sprint.”
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