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SoftBank suffers $9bln slump on debut after record IPO

Reuters / Share:

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Corp shares sank 15 percent on debut, wiping $9 billion off their value, as investors sold off the telecoms operator after its record IPO on worries about a recent service outage and its exposure to Chinese telecoms gear maker Huawei.

The poor start for the unit of tech investment giant SoftBank Group Corp meant that for Japan’s mom-and-pop investors concerns about the company and the nation’s telecoms market trumped the appeal of the group’s charismatic founder Masayoshi Son.

Such a debut is uncommon in the Japanese IPO market. Of 82 IPOs so far this year, SoftBank Corp’s $23.5 billion float was only the seventh to open below the offering price. Among recent major IPOs, Japan Display was the only one to flop, suffering a fall in its 2014 debut.

“There was a disruption in its network early this month as well as Huawei’s issues. There hasn’t been good news involving SoftBank recently,” said Tetsuro Ii, chief executive officer at Commons Asset Management.

Shares of SoftBank Corp closed at 1,282 yen, 14.5 percent lower than its IPO price of 1,500 yen and giving the telco a market cap of about 6.1 trillion yen – about 1.1 trillion yen below its value at the time of the IPO. Shares opened trading at 1,463 yen.

“It was beyond our expectations that the shares would fall that much,” said a senior executive at one of SoftBank Corp’s domestic lead underwriters, declining to be named since he was not authorised to discuss the matter with the media.

SoftBank Corp shares were the most heavily traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section, as amid heightened risk aversion the benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell to a nine-month low, closing down 0.6 percent. SoftBank Group lost 0.9 percent.

The IPO was Japan’s biggest ever and just shy of the world record $25 billion 2014 listing of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, a SoftBank Group portfolio company.

SoftBank Group raised 2.65 trillion yen in the IPO. It will retain about 63 percent of the newly listed unit should a greenshoe option be exercised in full. The IPO is a milestone in the conglomerate’s transformation into primarily a global tech investor.

During the IPO period, Japan’s third-largest mobile phone network provider by subscriber numbers suffered a rare nationwide service outage, which it said would not affect earnings or dividends.

Adding to investor worries, SoftBank Corp’s relationship with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd came under scrutiny as governments around the world moved to shut out the Chinese firm amid worries its equipment could facilitate Chinese spying. Huawei has repeatedly insisted Beijing has no influence over it.

The Japanese company on Thursday downplayed the impact a shut-out of Huawei equipment would have, with SoftBank Corp CTO Junichi Miyakawa saying the gap between the Chinese maker’s 5G gear and its competitors’ has closed and that the potential cost of replacing existing Huawei hardware would only be hundreds of millions of yen.

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