SoftBank Starts Comeback With $12 Billion Profit, Helped by Sprint Sale

SoftBank has lifted its share price and bolstered its balance sheet this year. A SoftBank store in Tokyo this month.

Photo: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg News

TOKYO—Technology investor SoftBank Group Corp. 9984 -2.45% recorded a profit of nearly $12 billion in the April-June quarter as gains from disposing of former unit Sprint Corp. helped it bounce back from the worst year in its history.

Improved performance at SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, the world’s largest tech-investment pool, also drove the turnaround after SoftBank suffered a loss of $9 billion in the year ended March 31.

The company said it posted an investment gain of ¥296.6 billion ($2.8 billion) at the Vision Fund in the latest quarter. That is its first such gain in a year.

SoftBank has lifted its share price and bolstered its balance sheet this year after taking a pummeling earlier from investment missteps and the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday’s results suggested its comeback plan is working for now—but at a big price. SoftBank has scaled back its investing ambitions and put big chunks of some of its most valuable assets on the block to raise cash and fund stock and debt buybacks.

Among those assets are stakes in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Japanese mobile-phone unit SoftBank Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. SoftBank said Tuesday it had sold or monetized ¥4.3 trillion ($41 billion) of those assets as of Aug. 3.

Sprint, which had been controlled by SoftBank, was taken over by T-Mobile on April 1. SoftBank received shares in the merged company but has now sold about two-thirds of them.

In the April-June quarter, SoftBank said it recorded a gain relating to loss of control of Sprint of ¥736.4 billion and a gain relating to sales of T-Mobile shares of ¥421.9 billion. Together those accounted for a big chunk of the group’s net profit of ¥1.26 trillion.

Much of the money gained from those share sales is already earmarked for repurchases of SoftBank’s stock and debt. It has so far executed about two-fifths of some $23 billion in share buybacks proposed this year and more than $1.5 billion in debt redemptions.

SoftBank is also considering a sale of part or all of U.K. chip designer Arm, one of the company’s biggest and most strategically important investments, Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said Tuesday, confirming a report in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Son said another option was a public offering of Arm’s shares in 2023.

At the heart of SoftBank’s troubles were missteps at the Vision Fund, into which the company has been pouring money and resources for the past three years under the guidance of Mr. Son. Some of the fund’s high-profile bets—such as U.S. office-share company WeWork—started to sour last year, leading to billions of dollars in write-downs.

The start of the coronavirus pandemic this year added to the company’s woes, pummeling many of the Vision Fund’s startups further and pushing SoftBank’s share price to a low of ¥2,687 ($25.37) in mid-March. The company drastically shrank plans for a second multibillion-dollar Vision Fund.

Since then, SoftBank has pleased investors by starting the share buyback program. It pledged to redeem debt and store up cash, and it cleaned house at the Vision Fund by writing down valuations there by billions of dollars.

Stock markets have recovered and SoftBank’s own shares have more than doubled from their low of the year. On the Tokyo Stock Exchange, SoftBank shares closed Tuesday down 2.45% at ¥6,361. The earnings announcement came after the market closed.

Related

  • SoftBank Explores Sale or IPO for Chip Designer Arm Holdings
  • SoftBank Posts Its Worst Results Ever, Hit by Poor Tech Investments

Write to Phred Dvorak at [email protected] and Kosaku Narioka at [email protected]

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