SoftBank confirms it is looking at IPO option after report of $18bn float

The SoftBank Group has confirmed that a share listing of its Japanese mobile phone operation is one of the options it is considering.

The company, which also owns a controlling stake in Sprint, was responding to a report this morning by the Nikkei Asian Review that it was looking to float its mobile phone unit to bring in a possible $18 billion.

The SoftBank Group neither accepted nor denied the report, but said of an initial public offering: “We are always studying various capital strategy options.”

It added: “The listing of SoftBank Corp [the mobile phone subsidiary] shares is one such option, but no decision has been made to officially proceed with this course.”

The Nikkei report said the group “plans to apply to the Tokyo Stock Exchange as early as the spring with an eye on having SoftBank Corp trade on the bourse’s first section starting around autumn. It’s hoping for an overseas debut at the same time, possibly in London.”

It would be the largest ever IPO in Japan, said the Nikkei report.

It added that the group “intends sell about 30% of the outstanding shares in its subsidiary to investors, keeping a roughly 70% stake. It seeks to gather funds from overseas investors as well due to the massive size of the IPO, which could rival the record 2.2 trillion yen that Nippon Telegraph and Telephone [now NTT] raised in 1987.”

SoftBank, formed of Japan Telecom and Vodafone Japan, competes in the Japanese market with NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. The group – but not the local Japanese mobile subsidiary – owns the UK chip company ARM and the stake in Sprint.

Nikkei said: “The listing of SoftBank Corp is meant to give the unit greater autonomy and clarify the business responsibilities of the parent and subsidiary.”

The SoftBank Group made no further comment on the report.

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