SoftBank makes investments in a variety of ventures in Japan and beyond. Its portfolio holdings extend from mobile and fixed-line telecommunications to Internet commerce and content, technology services, marketing, broadband infrastructure, and more. Most of the company's revenue originates from mobile telephone services it provides in Japan and the US. The company also provides venture capital to technology-related concerns in Asia, Europe, and the US. Holdings include interests in SoftBank Corp., SoftBank Telecom (which was merged into SoftBank Corp. in 2015), SoftBank Commerce & Service Corp., and Yahoo Japan, along with a minority stake in Yahoo!. Altogether, the firm has stakes in 60-plus companies.
SoftBank's mobile segment accounts for almost half of the group's revenue with the Sprint segment (added through a 2013 acquisition) providing 38%. The company's fixed line segment brings in 8% with Internet services providing 6%.
SoftBank more than doubled its revenue in 2015 (ended March) with the help of several acquisitions. The 2013 purchase of US telecom company Sprint added a a sizeable portion of revenue as did the acquirees GungHo, WILLCOM, Supercell, and Brightstar SoftBank Corp., SoftBank Group's mobile unit, also contributed to the revenue increase with more subscribers and the sale of more phones.
Net income jumped some 41% in 2015 from 2014 on the rise in revenue. Cash flow from operations also increased in 2015.
Doing business in the US is a key part of SoftBank's strategy. With the 2013 acquisition of Sprint, SoftBank now operates one of the country's major wireless companies. SoftBank also runs a research and development center in Silicon Valley to be keep up with fast-paced changes in technology and telecommunications.
In 2015 Alibaba Group Holding Limited and Foxconn Technology Group invested in SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corp., SoftBank Group's robotics business. SoftBank owns 60% of the robotics units and Alibaba and Foxconn own 20% each. The aim of the companies is to build a structure to bring SoftBank's Pepper robot and other robotics to global markets. The companies want to develop robotics and a market for the technologies on a global scale. Pepper, which, according to SoftBank is the first robot to understand human emotions, went on sale in Japan in mid-2015.
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.
Mergers & Acquisitions
SoftBank acquired ARM, a British microprocessor firm whose processor designs are licensed to nearly every mobile phone manufacturer in the world, including Apple and Samsung, for $32 billion in 2016. The acquisition is hoped to capitalize on growth in the increasingly significant 'Internet of Things' field.
In 2013 SoftBank bought 78% of Sprint Nextel. The deal was the largest acquisition of a US technology company by a Japanese business. Under the agreement, SoftBank invested $21.6 billion in Sprint, of which $16.6 billion was distributed to Sprint stockholders and $5 billion went 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.
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.