Softbank plans $41-billion asset sale to expand buyback, cut debt

SoftBank aims to sell assets to raise as much as 4.5 trillion yen ($41 billion).
Masayoshi Son is making his biggest play yet to silence doubters. On Monday, the Japanese billionaire unveiled an unprecedented $41 billion plan to sell off assets and shore up SoftBank Group Corp.’s crumbling market value in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

SoftBank aims to sell assets to raise as much as 4.5 trillion yen ($41 billion) over the coming year to buy back stock and slash debt — an amount equivalent to almost its entire market value last week. The scale of the endeavor surprised investors, sending the Japanese firm’s stock up 19 per cent. Yet that’s a fraction the capitalisation the investment house has lost since its 2020 peak, underscoring persistent concerns that tumbling technology sector valuations will damage Son’s debt-laden company.

The Japanese conglomerate, which also operates the $100 billion Vision Fund, is considered especially vulnerable to economic shocks given its enormous debt load and ties to unprofitable startups across the world. After Monday’s rally, it’s still down more than 40 per cent from this year’s peak in February.

The coronavirus-triggered rout has also spread to credit markets and sparked a surge in the cost of insuring debt against default — including that of SoftBank, whose credit-default swaps touched their highest level in about a decade.

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