Japanese telecoms giant Softbank Group Corp has announced that it has spent USD86.91 million to increase its stake in US operator Sprint Corp from 79.41% to 79.99%. The move comes hard on the heels of press reports suggesting that Softbank is considering offloading the under-performing mobile operator. However, Softbank clarified that it does not plan to increase its stake to 85% or more, the point at which Sprint would become eligible for delisting. The latest deal was carried out by Galaxy Investment Holdings, a wholly owned Softbank subsidiary.
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed that senior Softbank executives have floated the idea of selling the company’s controlling stake in Sprint on more thaqn one occasion over the last year. According to the business daily, the Japanese firm’s chairman Masayoshi Son and leading executive Nikesh Arora have sounded out US cable giant Comcast and acquisition-happy European firm Altice Group regarding a potential sale. The latter recently entered the US market via the takeover of cableco Suddenlink.
Sources familiar with the matter have suggested that Arora has privately expressed his frustration with Softbank’s ownership of Sprint and has recommended selling it. However, despite apprising both Comcast and Altice of the situation, neither company has opted to pursue a deal at the current time. Meanwhile, Mr Son remains committed to the turnaround of the company, telling the WSJ: ‘If nobody wants to buy it and we still have the customers, we still have employees, so I have to take care … [However, I am] totally happy that I did not sell, because I see the light at the end of the tunnel’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Softbank sealed its USD21.6 billion acquisition of 78% of Sprint shares in July 2013.