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SoftBank Group gets even more defensive with $12 billion stake sale

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Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group said it will sell about ¥1.33 trillion ($12.5 billion) of the stock it holds in its Japan­ese wireless operation, adding to massive asset sales that have helped his conglomerate get back on track after missteps with start-up investments.

The Tokyo-based parent said it will sell 927 million shares in SoftBank through a global secondary offering, about a third of its stake. The carrier’s stock, which closed at ¥1,431.5 on Friday, will be sold at a discount of 3 per cent to 5 per cent. Besides, the wireless unit said it will buy back up to 1.68 per cent of its shares for about ¥100 billion.

Son, founder and CEO, has turned around his firm’s fortunes since March by selling off assets and repurchasing his own stock.

SoftBank had previously announced plans to sell about ¥4.5 trillion in ass­ets and had said it was almo­st done with that program. Son has used the proceeds to pay down debt and embark on ¥2.5 trillion in buybacks.

“The question is what will the money be used for,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore. “It could just as likely be used for more buybacks or another wild acquisition.”

SoftBank plans to sell 223.5 million shares to overseas investors in Europe and Asia, excluding the US and Canada, with an extra allotment of 33.5 million shares. Domestic inve­st­ors will get 670.5 million sha­res. The firm aims to hand over the shares between September 23 and September 25, or five business days after the pricing and other details are settled.

SoftBank Group shares have more than doubled from their lows in March to ¥6,397 a share, as the firm repurchased about ¥1 trillion worth of stock. Two more tranches totaling ¥1.5 trillion still remain, one running until March 31 next year and another until July 30.

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