Sprint woes lead SoftBank to buy back its own shares

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Sprint woes lead SoftBank to buy back its own shares

SoftBank Group Corporation will buy back as much as 14.2 percent of its stock after the Japanese wireless carrier saw its shares drop to their lowest since it acquired control of U.S. carrier Sprint Corporation in 2013.

SoftBank will spend 500 billion yen ($4.4 billion) on the buyback, using cash holdings and the proceeds of asset sales, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement Monday. No new debt will be issued to fund the purchase, it said.

Shares of SoftBank have slumped 28 percent so far this year, driving its market value below that of investments in companies including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., as billionaire Chairman Masayoshi Son struggles to turn around Sprint.

The Japanese company had about 2.8 trillion yen of cash and equivalents as of Dec. 31 although its total debt amounted to 12.3 trillion yen, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Considering the current share price level, we deemed this good timing to pay back shareholders,” said Hiroe Kotera, a spokeswoman for SoftBank. The company didn’t specify what assets it may sell.

SoftBank shares rose 5.7 percent to 4,400 yen in Tokyo before the buyback was announced. The benchmark Topix index jumped 8 percent on Monday.

Sprint, which had been hemorrhaging cash over the past year, increased its cash and equivalents by almost 12 percent to $2.2 billion in the December quarter. Bloomberg

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