Update December 30,2016. Softbank (SFTBY) has been in the headlines a lot recently–usually after an announcement by President-elect Donald Trump.
There was Softbank CEO and chairman Masayoshi Son emerging after a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower to announce that Softbank would invest $50 billion (of $100 billion raised in a new venture fund) in the United States and create 50,000 jobs in the U.S.
There was Trump telling a gaggle of reporters at Mar-a-Lago that Softbank unit Sprint (S) would be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States (Softbank owns 83% of Sprint) and that new Softbank investment OneWeb would create another 3,000 jobs in the country. (The 8,000 total was apparently already included in the earlier 50,000 total.)
Sofbank’s pledges have been valuable to a President-elect looking to keep the buzz going on his pledge to create lots of jobs in the United States and to bring jobs back from off-shore after his intervention with Carrier, a unit of United Technologies (UTX), resulted in the company deciding (after generous subsidies from the state of Indiana) to keep 700 jobs in the United States rather than moving many of them to Mexico,
And they haven’t cost Softbank much of anything since the timing indicates that the $50 billion was already targeted for investment in U.S. startups.
So now the question is will Softbank get an important “quid pro quo” for those investment and job promises?
That’s certainly a possibility. Softbank’s struggling Sprint unit had proposed buying T-Mobile in order to get the scale to compete with AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ.) But the merger was killed by the Obama administration’s Justice Department on competitive grounds. The deal would have concentrated too much of the market in the hands of just three wireless companies, the Justice Department said.
The theory now is that a Trump Justice Department might well approve the deal.
The upside for Sprint would be considerable. A combined Sprint/T-Mobile would have more total subscribers than Verizon and nearly as many as AT&T. And buying T-Mobile would remove a price-setter from the market. T-Mobile has been adding customers thanks to aggressive pricing that have been felt on competitors’ bottom lines.
A deal wouldn’t be cheap. Wells Fargo estimates that the acquisition would cost Sprint/Softbank $93.4 billion and it would add a huge load to debt to an already burdened balance sheet at Softbank. T-Mobile’s parent Deutsche-Telekom has said it has no interest in selling so there’s just about no chance that Softbank could negotiate a cheaper price.
But in the meanwhile the jobs publicity and the speculation about a T-Mobile/Sprint tie-up haven’t done Softbank ADRs any harm. The New York traded ADRs (American Depositary Receipts) are up 9.68% in the last month.
Softbank is a member of my Jubak Picks portfolio. The ADRs are up 11.03% through the close on December 29 since I added them to the portfolio on February 20, 2015 as a way to participate in Softbank’s role as a major investor in Asia’s Internet startups.