SOFTBANK's investment strategy is anything but soft. Under the leadership of founder, chairman, and CEO Masayoshi Son (sometimes referred to as the Bill Gates of Japan), the company makes investments in a variety of ventures. Its portfolio holdings extend from mobile and fixed-line telecommunications to Internet commerce and content, technology services, marketing, broadband infrastructure, and more. The company also provides venture capital to technology-related concerns in Asia, Europe, and the US. Holdings include interests in SOFTBANK Mobile, SOFTBANK Telecom, SOFTBANK Commerce & Service Corp., and Yahoo Japan, along with a minority stake in Yahoo!. Altogether, the firm has stakes in 60-plus companies.
Mergers & Acquisitions
In order to boost its position as a global player, SOFTBANK is betting big on the US wireless service market. It has entered into an agreement to acquire 78% of Sprint Nextel. If completed, the deal would be the largest acquisition of a US technology company by a Japanese business in history. Under the agreement, SOFTBANK will invest a whopping $21.6 billion (raised from $20.1 billion after DISH Network made an unsolicited bid) in Sprint, of which $16.6 billion will be distributed to Sprint stockholders and $5 billion will be used to strengthen Sprint's balance sheet. SOFTBANK brings both cash and expansion experience to Sprint. It also allows SOFTBANK to grow its expertise in smartphones and next-generation high speed networks. The closing of the transaction is expected to occur in mid-2013.
SOFTBANK often uses joint ventures to accomplish its goal of increasing its foothold as a global player. In the Asia/Pacific market, for example, it announced a joint venture with PayPal in 2012 to establish a digital payments business in Japan. The company also works with website operator Alibaba.com (of which it controls about a third) to develop mobile Internet services and an online shopping market in China and Japan. Additionally, SOFTBANK participates in a joint venture with wireless network giants China Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and Vodafone to develop similar services.
Other strategic areas of focus for SOFTBANK include enhancing its networks, sales structure, and branding. Despite a soft spot for all things technological, SOFTBANK also has holdings outside of the wired world: It owns the Fukuoka SOFTBANK HAWKS (formerly the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks), a professional baseball team it acquired in 2005.
Masayoshi Son owns approximately 30% of SOFTBANK, which he started in 1981 as a distributor of packaged software. In 2010 the company launched SOFTBANK Academia, a program designed to identify and train potential successors to Son as CEO.