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Softbank plans $18 billion IPO of mobile phone unit as soon as spring: Nikkei

By Yoshiyasu Shida
FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

By Yoshiyasu Shida

TOKYO (Reuters) - SoftBank Group Corp <9984.T> plans to list its core mobile-phone unit in Tokyo and overseas as early as this spring, raising some 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) in one of Japan's biggest initial public offerings, the Nikkei newspaper said on Monday.

The parent will sell some 30 percent of SoftBank Corp, aiming to debut the shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and elsewhere, possibly London, around autumn, the newspaper said, without citing any sources for the information.

The IPO would rival the 2.2 trillion yen 1987 listing of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp <9432.T> in size, it said.

SoftBank officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The listing would aim to give the mobile-phone unit more autonomy in a group that has become more of an international investment company in recent years, the newspaper said. SoftBank would use the proceeds to invest in growth, such as buying into foreign information-technology companies, the Nikkei said.

SoftBank has been aggressively investing in tech companies worldwide, notably through its $98 billion London-based Vision Fund, saying last month that a group it leads will buy a large number of shares of Uber Technologies Inc in a deal that values the ride-services firm at $48 billion.

"SoftBank's future will focus less on the mobile-phone business and more on allocating cash to build the world's largest portfolio of investments in future technologies and business models," said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

"It makes sense to spin off the mobile-phone business using a public offering that would leave SoftBank in control and provide SoftBank with more cash to pursue its strategy of investing in companies with potentially high growth prospects," Gordon said by email. "It is a way of obtaining capital without adding debt or diluting SoftBank's equity interests in the growth companies."

A parent company normally must limit its stake in a subsidiary listed on the TSE First Section to less than 65 percent, but the requirement can be eased if the unit also lists overseas, the Nikkei said.

(Reporting by Yoshiyasu Shida; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Kevin Liffey)