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SoftBank mulls $18bn IPO for mobile business

The sale could amount to one of Japan’s most significant IPOs ever.

By Sabrina Dougall

SoftBank could be on the edge of making up to $20bn in a mega IPO of its smartphone business, possibly with a listing on the London stock market.

The multinational telecommunications firm is looking to raise capital to purchase international tech companies, according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei. Founded in 1986, Softbank is reportedly considering a 30% float in Tokyo, with a potential IPO on the London stock exchange as well.

In a statement Softbank said that “the listing of SoftBank Corp. shares” is an “option”, but confirmed “no decision has been made” on whether or not to go ahead with the listing.SoftBank

If the listing materialises, it could amount to one of Japan’s most significant public sales ever held – even greater than that of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in 1987, Nikkei reported.

Masayoshi Son, founder of the world’s sixth largest mobile company, hopes the IPO will sidestep the “conglomerate discount” that the group typically trades at, an insider told the FT.

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In addition to smartphone technologies, the parent company of ARM also develops internet services (including Yahoo Japan) and smart humanoid robots. The telecoms conglomerate also owns US mobile communications company Sprint.

On Monday, Softbank invested €460m in online car vendor Auto1, following the purchase of a 15% ($7.7bn) stake in Uber at the end of December. SoftBank has made numerous investments in ride-hailing companies around the world, of late. Last year, the founder-run family of businesses made a notable investment in China’s Didi Chuxing. The Japanese company has purchased stakes in Grab in Southeast Asia as well as Ola in India — both of which are rival firms of Uber. The New York Times reported in late December that SoftBank has considered investing in Lyft but has not yet done so.

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In October, Son announced the creation of the ca. $100bn “SoftBank Vision Fund” backed by funds from Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

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