Business / Corporate

SoftBank unveils ¥2.4 trillion IPO for Japan mobile telecom business


SoftBank Group Corp. is seeking to raise ¥2.4 trillion in the initial public offering of its domestic telecommunications operations scheduled for Dec. 19.

The technology conglomerate plans to sell 1.6 billion shares at ¥1,500 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.

Founder Masayoshi Son is spinning off SoftBank’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 consumers’ phone bills. At the same time, 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 telecom operations, which include wireless, broadband and fixed-line services, generated ¥1.8 trillion in revenue and ¥446.9 billion in 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 to customers, while KDDI said it won’t follow along because it had 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.

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