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Japan's electronics multinationals Leadership M&A Mobile

SoftBank acquires ARM Holdings plc: paradigm shift to internet of things (IoT) and a Vodafone angle

On 18 July 2016 SoftBank announced to acquire ARM Holdings plc for £17 per share, corresponding to £24.0 billion (US$ 31.4 billion)

SoftBank acquires ARM: acquisition completed on 5 September 2016, following 10 years of “unreciprocated love” for ARM

On 18 July 2016 SoftBank announced a “Strategic Agreement”, that SoftBank plans to acquire ARM Holdings plc for £24.0 billion (US$ 31.4 billion, ¥ 3.3 trillion) paid as follows:

  • Cash on Hand: £16.7 billion (US$ 12.5 billion, ¥ 2.3 trillion)
  • Loans: £7.3 billion (US$ 9.5 billion, ¥ 1.0 trillion)
  • Total: £24.0 billion (US$ 31.4 billion, ¥ 3.3 trillion)

(excluding 20.4 million shares (1.4%) that SoftBank already owned on 18 July 2016).

Acquisition schedule:

  • 18 July 2016: Strategic agreement between SoftBank and ARM announced by SoftBank
  • 5 September 2016: effective date of Scheme of acquisition
  • 6 September 2016: ARM delisted, cancellation of listing of ARM shares
  • 12 September 2016: cancellation of listing of ARM US Depositary shares (ADS)

Straight line from SoftBank’s acquisition of Vodafone-Japan to acquisition of ARM

In a detailed interview in Nikkei on 3 September 2016, Masayoshi son explained that he was interested in ARM ever since about 2006, when he saw the paradigm shift from PC to mobile, when he discussed his designs for mobile internet handsets with Steve Jobs, and when he acquired Vodafone-Japan (see: Why did Vodafone fail in Japan? … and miss an opportunity of US$ 83 billion).

SoftBank’s acquisition of Vodafone Japan is explained here: Softbank acquires Vodafone Japan with co-investment from Yahoo KK

SoftBank’s start in telecoms via the acquisition of Tokyo Metallic, SoftBank’s acquisition of Vodafone Japan in combination with having developed YAHOO-Japan into the leading internet service company in Japan, were among the most important stepping stones for SoftBank to become a key global player in mobile communications.

Masayoshi Son: unreciprocated love for ARM for 10 years

In the Nikkei interview of 3 September 2016, Masayoshi Son explains that he had an “one-sided / unreciprocated love for ARM” for at least 10 years, but decided to acquire SPRINT first. After acquiring SPRINT he had to pay down debt before being able to acquire ARM now.

ARM Holdings plc

ARM was founded on 27 November 1990 as Advanced RISC Machines, however the abbreviation ARM was first used in 1983 and initially meant “Acorn RISC Machines”.

Acorn Computers Ltd was founded in 1978 in Cambridge (UK) by Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry to produce computers, and its most famous product was the BBC Micro Computer.

ARM has built an ecosystem of IC design systems and platforms which are at the core of low energy consumption ICs and CPUs for smartphones and many other electronic devices and cars. ARM may become or already is one of the core technology companies for the Internet of Things (IoT).

SoftBank’s ARM Business Department’s name changed to “New Business Department”

On 3 September 2016 SoftBank announced that the name of SoftBank’s ARM Business Department has been changed to SoftBank New Business Department.

SoftBank today and 300 year vision report:

Copyright (c) 2016-2019 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
games M&A mobile games smart phone games Software

“Japanese superman Masayoshi Son” invests in Supercell (interview for Talouselämä, Finland’s largest business newspaper)

“Japanese superman Masayoshi Son” invests in SuperCell – interview with Finland’s largest business newspaper Talouselämä

Talouselämä (Finland’s largest business newspaper)’s news editor Mirva Heiskanen interviewed me for their article entitled “Japanese superman Masayoshi Son invests in Supercell” (Supercellin ostaja Masayoshi Son on Japanin supermies).

More interviews by Gerhard Fasol.
To understand SoftBank better, read our report on SoftBank, an analysis of SoftBank, history, current data, and the context.

Here are some of my main points:

Its not well known in Europe and US yet, but SoftBank is a very large company, and aiming to become the world’s largest company

SoftBank is really a very large company, driven by the charismatic founder Masayoshi Son. To get a feeling for the size of SoftBank, while the investment in Supercell is a large amount of money by anybody’s standards, its about 5% of SoftBank’s acquisitions this year alone (in addition to M&A type investments, SoftBank also invests substantial sums in networking equipment and other telecom business infrastructure and data centers).

SoftBank invested in about 1500 companies, the most famous currently being Alibaba

Overall SoftBank invests in about 1500 companies or more: SoftBank takes a venture capital approach to this portfolio. Overall SoftBank investments are incredibly successful. As an example, look at the currently important Alibaba case:
Softbank acquired 36.7% of Alibaba in 2000 for US$ 20 million.
Alibaba’s market cap will be determined after its IPO, but currently figures between US$ 100 billion and even up to US$ 250 billion circulate. This would value SoftBank’s 36.7% stake in Alibaba at somewhere between US$ 36.7 billion and US$ 91 billion, a return on initial investment between 1835 and 4550 times!

While SoftBank’s overall portfolio is outstandingly successful, not every single investment is successful, as is normal for a venture type investment style.

This year alone, SoftBank investments and acquisitions amount to about US$ 30 billion

This year SoftBank’s direct investments and acquisitions alone are on the order of US$ 30 billion and include:

  • Sprint US$ 21.6 billion + infrastructure investments
  • Clearwire (not sure if this is included in the Sprint figures)
  • eMobile/eAccess US$ 5 billion including debt
  • GungHo increase stake US$ 1/4 billion
  • Supercell US$ 1.5 billion
  • mobile phone distributor Brightstar which is another US$ 1.26 billion

Talouselämä questions about SoftBank and its investment in Supercell and my answers:

  • What are SoftBank’s targets? SoftBank wants to become one of the most important companies globally, has a 30 year plan and a 300 your plan
  • How does SoftBank integrate acquisitions? Case-by-case. In some cases, e.g. Vodafone-Japan KK, Softbank totally absorbed the company and its assets became much of the starting point of SoftBank Mobile, however today’s SoftBank Mobile is a dramatically different company compared to Vodafone-Japan KK, which according to Masayoshi Son in recent interviews “was going south”.
  • How important are games for Softbank? SoftBank is major investor in GungHo, which is one of the world’s most successful smartphone game companies.
  • What other businesses does SoftBank concentrate on, and what kind of goals does it have? SoftBank today focusses on mobile communications and internet, however is also active in other areas. For example, SoftBank is aggressively building an energy business, with focus on renewable energy, which includes renewable energy investments in Mongolia for example. SoftBank‘s more than 1500 investments include Alibaba and Yahoo Japan KK.

To understand SoftBank better, read our report on SoftBank, an analysis of SoftBank, history, current data, and the context.

Understand Japan’s games sector and its disruption

Report “Japan game makers and markets” (pdf file, approx 400 pages, 140 figures)

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
games Mobile

Supercell wins SoftBank and GungHo investment

Supercell investment by SoftBank and GungHo

Supercell investment leverages paradigm shift, time shift and market disconnects

Smartphones and the “freemium” business models are bringing a dual paradigm shift to games and create a new truly global market. To take advantage of this global paradigm shift, its necessary to overcome the cultural disconnects between markets. SoftBank and GungHo‘s investment in the Finnish smartphone/tablet game maker Supercell, announced on Oct. 15, will help to overcome the disconnect between Japan’s and other game markets for both Supercell and GungHo.

The disconnect between Japan and other countries is often surprising – when BusinessWeek in 2006 commented on rumors that SoftBank might introduce an Apple “iPod-Phone” to Japan, BusinessWeek remarked that “Apple would normally never talk to a small-fry such as SoftBank” …. at that time SoftBank’s annual revenues were about twice Apple’s, and BusinessWeek printed my correction pointing out that SoftBank even at that time was anything but a “small fry”.

One of SoftBank‘s aspects is it’s “time-shift” investment model, another is SoftBank‘s 30/300 year vision – both are important factors to understand the Supercell investment.

Supercell investment: Comparing Supercell's US$ 3 billion valuation with Japanese game companies (note that the market cap for the full SONY Group is shown here)
Comparing Supercell’s US$ 3 billion valuation with Japanese game companies (note that the market cap for the full SONY Group is shown here)

This Figure contrasts the market caps of new mobile and smartphone centric game companies (GungHo, Supercell, DeNA and GREE) with traditional console, video game and arcade game companies.

SoftBank announced that because of the majority investment, Supercell will become a subsidiary of SoftBank, and GungHo will account for Supercell’s profit/loss under the equity method.

Supercell investment: Comparing Supercell with Japanese game companies and SoftBank
Comparing Supercell with Japanese game companies and SoftBank

GungHo and Supercell both are top-ranking mobile game companies: GungHo inside Japan with “Puzzle and Dragons”, and Supercell outside Japan with “Hay Day” and “Clash of Clans”. Expect both to leverage each other’s resources.

Both GungHo and Supercell show explosive growth:
GungHo’s operating profits increased 4050% (x 40) for Jan-June 2013 compared to the same period one year earlier.
Supercell’s revenues (mainly in-game purchases) jumped 500x from EURO 151,000 in 2011 to EURO 78 million in 2012.

Culture can be an issue between Japan and other countries, however, SoftBank has invested in more than 1000 comparable companies, and many of SoftBank’s investments have been outstandingly successful including Alibaba and Yahoo.

However, investment and management support by SoftBank does not automatically guarantee success in Japan – despite SoftBank’s investment and support, Zynga closed operations in Japan earlier this year. Success in Japan will remain Supercell’s responsibility, despite SoftBank’s and GungHo’s help and investment – as Zynga can tell.

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position: Learn more about SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and his 30/300 year vision for SoftBank

Report on “SoftBank today and 300 year vision” (approx 120 page, pdf file)

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
ecommerce Economics

Rakuten vs SoftBank + Yahoo vs Amazon (Bloomberg and BusinessWeek interviews)

Rakuten vs Softbank

Yahoo reduces e-commerce fees to compete harder with Rakuten’s online mall

Bloomberg interview and BusinessWeek interview about Yahoo KK’s aggressive reduction of ecommerce fees, a move increasing competition with Amazon.com and Rakuten.

How do you see Yahoo KK’s latest move to reduce or eliminate merchant’s fees? Do you see this as an attack by SoftBank/Yahoo on Rakuten?

SoftBank and Rakuten are clearly two very different companies – they don’t compete on the same ground. SoftBank is a telecom company with a Government spectrum license – a quasi-monopoly on a certain wavelength spectrum. Rakuten has no such monopoly, but is an internet based ecommerce company.

How do you see the future of Rakuten now?

Rakuten is clearly squeezed between SoftBank/Yahoo on one side and Amazon.com on the other side.

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, SoftBank/Yahoo-KK’s Masayoshi Son and Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani are clearly some of the most brilliant minds on this planet earth, so any battle between these three is phenomenal.

You ask about Hiroshi Mikitani/Rakuten – he clearly has his job cut out to compete with Masayoshi Son and Jeff Bezos – that’s not easy at all.

In particular, Amazon.com has a lot of strengths in areas, where Rakuten does not compete, e.g. AWS – Amazon Web Services, which is a very important cloud services company.

In terms of globalization, I also see challenges ahead for Rakuten. Even though Rakuten has recently decided to train staff in English conversation, its not a trivial job for an essentially Japanese company to globalize.

How do you see globalization of Rakuten and Softbank?

SoftBank clearly has taken a big step in acquiring Sprint in USA. SoftBank’s very big challenge is now to make Sprint a very big success and this will take some time.
Rakuten also has a huge challenge to globalize, and it will be interesting to see if Rakuten can become a global company

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile telecommunications

Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire in Japan’s Postal Ministry?!

Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire in Japan’s Post and Telecommunications Ministry? Is it really true?

by Gerhard Fasol

Masayoshi Son is known for his unbreakable will to achieve his and his companies’ business goals, and the will to take risks.

Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire in the Ministry?!? Spectrum allocations for KDDI and SoftBank:

Currently Masayoshi Son, Founder of Softbank, is battling for a revision of a decision by Japan’s Ministry of General Affairs (Soumu-Sho) to award a new tranche of radio wave spectrum to KDDI’s subsidiary UQ, rather than sharing the spectrum equally with SoftBank‘s subsidiary Wireless City Planning.

Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire in Japan’s Post and Telecommunications Ministry? Asking Masayoshi Son directly:

For a long time, I knew of a story about Masayoshi Son threatening to set himself on fire inside Japan’s Postal and Telecommunications Ministry (now merged into Japan’s Ministry of General Affairs (Soumu-Sho) since administrative reforms some years ago) in order to underline his request for a particular telecommunications license, or access to NTT exchanges, or similar matters Masayoshi Son was applying for at the time. I was long puzzled whether this story is true or not, so some years I go I had the chance to check this story out directly with Masayoshi Son, via the Chief- Editor of BusinessWeek, Mr David Rocks.

David Rocks, Editor of BusinessWeek in 2004 came for three weeks to Japan because BusinessWeek’s technology correspondent had tragically died of illness, in order to fill the gap of reporting about Japan. On the first day of his three weeks work in Japan he had Chinese dinner with me in Hibiya. Next day around noon he phoned me for advice of which questions to ask Masayoshi Son during an interview, and one of the questions that I suggest was: “Is the story true, that you (=Masayoshi Son) threatened to set yourself on fire in the Japanese Telecommunications Ministry”. A day later David Rocks told me, that Masayoshi Son’s answer was: “Yes, the story is true, I did threaten to set myself on fire inside the Telecommunications Ministry, but I did not take any petrol along!”.

Read this story in more detail here. This story became the headline of David Rocks’ BusinessWeek article “Setting fire to the cell-phone market“, published on October 31, 2004 in Businessweek.

More about Softbank and Masayoshi Son in our report.

Copyright notice:

The photograph of Masayoshi Son is used under Creative Commons license according to Wikipedia.
Copyright details are:
Description English: Masayoshi Son on July 11, 2008
Date 11 July 2008, 12:11:02
Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikura/2658524938/)
Author Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/people/20119192@N00) from Japan
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en) license.

Copyright(c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Leadership Mobile Renewable energy telecommunications

Growth in Japan: the SoftBank group

SoftBank gaining market share in Japan

SoftBank market cap catching up with Docomo

Mobile subscription data released last week show, that the SoftBank group continues to gain market share while incumbent NTT-docomo continues to lose market share – an upward trend for SoftBank, and a downward trend for NTT-docomo essentially unbroken since SoftBank acquired Vodafone-Japan and succeeded with the turn-round.

SoftBank’s market cap has also steadily increased recently and is now close to NTT-docomo’s, exceeding it on some days:

operator || Market Cap (May 10, 2013)

  • NTT-docomo || YEN 6945 billion (US$ 68 billion)
  • SoftBank || YEN 6688 billion (US$ 66 billion)
  • KDDI || YEN 4162 billion (US$ 41 billion)
SoftBank group exceeds 40 million mobile subscriptions
SoftBank group exceeds 40 million mobile subscriptions

Bringing eMobile and PHS operator Willcom under its group umbrella, and by creating the new operator Wireless City Planning (WCP), Softbank group subscription numbers now exceed 40 million, and have overtaken KDDI

PHS operator Willcom joins the SoftBank group

PHS operator Willcom registered for bankruptcy administration essentially because of the high investments in upgrading the legacy PHS network infrastructure, and is currently in corporate reconstruction with SoftBank as the reconstruction sponsor.

Wireless City Planning (WCP) is a wireless operator owned partially by Advantage Partners and SoftBank and other investors, and representing the next generation network Willcom hoped – but could not afford – to develop.

While negotiating the SPRINT acquisition, SoftBank tricks out KDDI to take control of eMobile

While Masayoshi Son was secretly negotiating his offer for SPRINT, he discovered that KDDI was in negotiations to acquire new entrant eMobile. While continuing the SPRINT negotiations, he was a faster decision maker than KDDI, and could win the eMobile acquisition right under the eyes of KDDI.

Since a few weeks ago, iPhones on SoftBank‘s network automatically log into both SoftBank’s and eMobile‘s LTE radio networks, greatly enhancing data transmission rates and coverage.

More in our report on Japan’s telecommunications sector

Softbank and Renewable Energy

Softbank recently also entered the renewable energy business. Read more about Softbank’s renewable energy business in our Renewable energy report (our work on Japan’s energy sector is referenced in IEEE-Spectrum here).

Learn more about SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and his 30/300 year vision for SoftBank

Report on “SoftBank today and 300 year vision” (approx 120 page, pdf file)

Copyright 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile Renewable energy telecommunications

Masayoshi Son: “I am a man – and I want to be Number 1”

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position…acquiring SPRINT on the way to the top

SoftBank: towards global No. 1 with a 300 year vision

To understand SoftBank, and the planned SPRINT acquisition, you need to understand Masayoshi Son – and Masayoshi Son says: “I am a man – and I want to be Number 1”. SoftBank announced FY2012 financial results a few days ago – read below and in our SoftBank-report for analysis, but lets first look at Masayoshi Son.

Yes, Masayoshi Son threatened the Japanese Telecomms and Postal Ministry to set himself on fire inside the Ministry

A few years ago, the Chief-Editor of BusinessWeek visited Japan to interview Masayoshi Son, and the night before the interview over dinner he asked me to suggest interview questions. I suggested to ask if it is true that Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire inside Japan’s Government Ministry for Telecommunications if he is again refused the telecommunications license he needed to build a telecommunications business. Masayoshi Son’s answer: “yes, its true, I threatened to set myself on fire inside the Ministry – but I did not bring any fuel along into the Ministry”. This story shows Masayoshi Son’s passion and extreme determination – and my suggestion became the headline of the article in BusinessWeek – and can still be found online here.

Faced with such passion and determination, Vodafone never had a chance in Japan – can you imagine the Chairman of Vodafone coming over from London to Tokyo to threaten to set himself on fire inside Japan’s telecommunications ministry? Not to mention the demanding customers: several times I personally saw complaining Japanese customers shout down Japanese Vodafone-staffers until these burst into tears and had to be consoled by Vodafone-coworkers… unbelievable, but true.
Japan can be tough for foreign companies…

BusinessWeek: “Apple would never talk to a “small fry” like SoftBank”. Really?

Around the same time, I had to ask BusinessWeek to print a correction to BusinessWeek’s statement, that Apple would never talk to a “small fry” like SoftBank – read the correction here. Well, Apple did talk to the “small fry” SoftBank – and as a result the iPhone is the best-selling mobile phones for two years in a row, and SoftBank is on the way now to become No. 1 in Japan. Read here about a Press Conference discussing the original iPhone introduction by SoftBank to Japan.

SoftBank on the way to US$ 10 billion annual operating profits
SoftBank on the way to US$ 10 billion annual operating profits (Source: our Report on Japan’s telecom sector)

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position: Japan’s most successful venture start-up – with a 30 year and a 300 year plan

SoftBank had already received a spectrum license and had intended to build up a mobile phone network from zero, when Masayoshi Son grasped the opportunity to acquire Vodafone’s struggling Japan operations – the former Japan-Telecom and J-Phone. Almost overnight Masayoshi Son arranged US$ 15 Billion in loans to fund the acquisition.

The acquisition was announced on Friday March 17, 2006, and the following Monday, Masayoshi Son moved all the remaining staff (minus most expatriates) from the Vodafone-Atago-office to Softbank’s offices in Shiodome, and shut down the Atago-offices to make a clear break. It took Masayoshi Son only a few months until it was clear that the turn-round will be successful. And now with the planned SPRINT acquisition, Softbank is on track to target global No. 1 position.

Softbank and Renewable Energy

Softbank recently also entered the renewable energy business. Read more about Softbank’s renewable energy business in our Renewable energy report (our work on Japan’s energy sector is referenced in IEEE-Spectrum here and here in The Economist).

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position: Learn more about SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and his 30/300 year vision for SoftBank

Report on “SoftBank today and 300 year vision” (approx 120 page, pdf file)

Copyright notice:

The photograph of Masayoshi Son is used under Creative Commons license according to Wikipedia.
Copyright details are:
Description English: Masayoshi Son on July 11, 2008
Date 11 July 2008, 12:11:02
Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikura/2658524938/)
Author Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/people/20119192@N00) from Japan
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en) license.

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile telecommunications

Japan telecom sector financial results and the Softbank-Sprint take-over battle

SoftBank seeks to win, where Docomo failed – taking Japan’s telecoms know-how global

Japan telecom sector financial results: very very healthy

With SoftBank and DISH battling for US mobile operator SPRINT, the eyes are on Japan’s very healthy mobile phone sector, which a few days ago announced financial results for FY 2012. Japan’s mobile operators combined achieve about US$ 120 billion in revenues and income margins are among the highest globally.

The size, success and extremely advanced state of Japan’s mobile phone sector, SoftBank’s excellence, and Masayoshi Son’s midas touch give SoftBank the strength to go for an acquisition of SPRINT – and to aim for the large scale globalization which DoCoMo tried, but could not achieve about 10 years ago.

Japan's mobile operator revenues are about US$ 120 billion and growing
Japan’s mobile operator revenues are about US$ 120 billion and growing

Japan’s mobile operators DoCoMo, KDDI and SoftBank are growing steadily

Japan’s mobile phone operators are protected by government licenses, but within this scope, there is passionate competition and there are many M&A actions. With high investments in infrastructure, Japan’s mobile phone sector is among the most advanced in the world. Japan initiated the global mobile internet revolution.

Combined, Japan’s mobile operators achieve about US$ 120 billion in sales annually

Combined, Japan’s mobile operators achieve about US$ 120 billion in sales annually, and the size of Japan’s mobile industry has been growing steadily ever since mobile phones started in Japan.

The Figure above clearly shows the growth of SoftBank from a small venture to one of the world’s largest telecom operators, and the acquisition and turn-round of Vodafone-Japan.

SoftBank aims for US$ 10 billion operating income/year
SoftBank aims for US$ 10 billion operating income/year

SoftBank is on track to achieve the target of YEN 1 Trillion operating income/year by FY 2016

FY2012 financial results announced a few days ago show that SoftBank has overtaken KDDI in terms of operating profits, is on track to overtake DoCoMo and to achieve its target of YEN 1 Trillion (US$ 10 Billion) in operating profits by 2016 – this while investing heavily in infrastructure in Japan, and paying down debt remaining from the acquisition of Vodafone-Japan.

Operator Operating income/year
China Mobile US$ 24.4 Billion
Vodafone US$ 17.4 Billion
Verizon US$ 13.2 Billion
SoftBank US$ 7.5 Billion, 2016-target: US$ 10 billion

More in our report on Japan’s telecom sector

SoftBank today and 300 year vision report:

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile

Japan wireless industry boom driven by smartphones. Japan adds about two Finlands worth of wireless subscriptions per year.

Japan wireless industry adds 11 million subscriptions/year currently

Softbank targets ¥ 1 Trillion operational income

Japan wireless industry is growing, and Japan’s mobile operators add 11 million subscriptions/year currently: Japan adds about two Finlands worth of wireless subscriptions per year.

Softbank entered the telecom arena in 2001 with Yahoo BB, Nagoya Metallic and later Osaka Metallic and Tokyo Metallic Communications. However, when Softbank announced the acquisition of the ailing Vodafone-Japan operations, few telecom professionals outside Japan had ever heard about Softbank, and major telecom equipment makers approached our company to help start business with Softbank.

Today, Softbank has acquired Japan’s eAccess/eMobile, is sponsoring the rehabilitation of Willcom, founded Wireless City Planning, and is in the processes of gaining regulatory approval to acquire the US operator SPRINT – on the way to become one of the world’s largest telecom operators.

Japan wireless industry operators have combined operating profits of US$ 24 billion/year – Softbank targets operating profits of YEN 1 Trillion (= US$ 11 Billion) for financial year 2016

Softbank targeting YEN 1 trillion operating income by FY2016
Softbank targeting YEN 1 trillion operating income by FY2016

Will Softbank overtake NTT-docomo?

NTT-docomo and Softbank could not be more different. While both are public companies, traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, about 21.7% of NTT-docomo’s shares are owned by Japan’s Ministry of Finance via their holding of NTT shares.
On the other hand, Masayoshi Son owns about 21.4% of Softbank shares – almost the same ratio.
One of Softbank’s targets is to achieve YEN 1 Trillion (= approx. US$ 11 Billion) in annual operating income.
Softbank recently acquired US operator SPRINT, and to stimulate cooperation between Japanese employees of Softbank, Softbank is now offering YEN 1 million (US$ 11,000) bonus to those Softbank employees clearing a certain level of English language test.

Japan's mobile subscriptions growth by 11 million/year
Japan’s mobile subscriptions growth by 11 million/year

Smartphones drive a boom in Japan’s mobile communications sector

Smartphones drive a boom in Japan’s mobile communications sector: while growth has been fading over the last 10 years, iPhone and other smart phones accelerate growth. Currently Japan adds about 11 million mobile subscriptions every year: Japan adds about two Finland’s worth of mobile subscribers per year.
Read detailed analysis in our Japan-Telecommunications-Industry Report

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Categories
M&A Mobile

SoftBank accounting adjustments – a Red Herring interview

SoftBank accounting adjustments

Vodafone Japan turn around under SoftBank – Interview for Red Herring

Helped RedHerring with an interview on the recent SoftBank accounting adjustment. The article is entitled “Softbank Falls on Lehman Cut” and appeared on the RedHerring website on August 28, 2006. Our company also recently advised a major global financial institution on related issues and risk issues.

Here a short summary of what I said

Essentially Vodafone-Japan is a company which has been going downhill in many ways for the last 4 years, they lost a lot of subscribers, and there has not been enough investment in equipment and staff, etc. For that reason and other reasons Vodafone sold the Japan operations this March to Softbank (read our report on SoftBank here).

Japan’s mobile market is really difficult, and there is tough competition. There is much trust in the entrepreneurial skill of Softbank Chairman and founder Masayoshi Son – only through his reputation and track record could Softbank attract US$ 15 billion in bank loans to acquire Vodafone Japan KK. Personally I have a very high opinion about Masayoshi Son’s abilities – and I think there is a high chance that he will succeed to turn round this company. Many people feel so, otherwise Son would not have been able to obtain the finance for the deal. Masayoshi Son has built not just one, but many successful companies, and he is maybe the strongest driving fource behind Japan’s internet revolution.

I think for the turnround to be successful will take quite some time, and probably the shares of Softbank will go up and down many times before the company is turned round. I am not a share holder of Softbank, but my thought would be that this is really an investment for the longterm, unless you are playing on shortterm fluctuations which some investors also do. But then you have to understand exactly what you are doing and live with the risk.

Regarding the revaluation of the plant (mainly base stations, antennas, backhaul, computer systems etc) of the company, I am not an accountant so I cannot comment on the accounting issues and regulatory issues here.

However keep in mind that Vodafone has last year written off about US$ 50 billion mainly for the Mannesmann acquisition. Softbank has not written off anything as far as I understand it, they converted plant into good will which as far as I know increases the period of write off from 10 to 20 years. But was I said, I am not an accountant.

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile

SoftBank a small fry, writes BusinessWeek …. really??

Comparing Apple and SoftBank

Is SoftBank really smaller than Apple Computer?

In my 20 years of business and work between US/Japan and EU/Japan, I am often surprised how Western executives underestimate economic size and strength of Japan and it’s companies – here is another example:
BusinessWeek writes about the SoftBank/iPod phone, and writes that former Apple executives says that Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs wouldn’t normally tie up with a “small fry” like SoftBank

Is SoftBank really a small fry? Let’s check it out:

SoftBank a small fry? Apple vs SoftBank revenues

Softbank + Softbank-Mobile (former Vodafone KK) combined have substantially higher revenues than Apple Computer for financial years 2005 and 2006 - so clearly Softbank is no 'small fry' at all compared to Apple Computer
Softbank + Softbank-Mobile (former Vodafone KK) combined have substantially higher revenues than Apple Computer for financial years 2005 and 2006 – so clearly Softbank is no ‘small fry’ at all compared to Apple Computer

Revenues of SoftBank + SoftBank Mobile (x-Vodafone KK) were on the order of YEN 2500 Billion (US$ 22 Billion) for the financial year that ended March 31, 2006.
Revenues of Apple Computer were US$ 13.9 Billion for the year ended Sept 24, 2005. – So in terms of revenue the new SoftBank Group (including the recently acquired x-Vodafone KK) is almost twice as large as Apple Computer.

SoftBank a small fry? Apple vs SoftBank market capitalization

On May 19, 2006, market cap of SoftBank and SoftBank Mobile combined was about 20% less than Apple's market cap
On May 19, 2006, market cap of SoftBank and SoftBank Mobile combined was about 20% less than Apple’s market cap

Market capitalization of Apple Computer was US$ 54.9 Billion on May 19, 2006. Market capitalization of SoftBank (US$ 28 Billion) plus SoftBank Mobile Corp (US$ 15 Billion) was on the order of US$ 43 Billion.

BusinessWeek took note of my letter and published a correction on May 21, 2006, which you can find here and here.

More about Japan’s telecom industry sector in our JCOMM-Report
More about Softbank in our Softbank report

Note added on August 13, 2008:

When the iPhone was actually introduced to Japan by SoftBank in 2008, Mr Tetsuzo Matsumoto, CTO and Board Member of SoftBank-Mobile and myself were invited by the Foreign Correspondents Club to hold a Press Conference to comment on the iPhone introduction to Japan – you can find the records here.

SoftBank today and 300 year vision report:

Copyright 2000-2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

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Mobile telecommunications

Interview with Businessweek Editor David Rocks about Masayoshi Son and Japan’s telecom sector

Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura
Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikura/2658524938/). The photograph of Masayoshi Son is used under Creative Commons license according to Wikipedia.

Businessweek Editor David Rocks: “if you would meet Masayoshi Son, what would you ask him?

by Gerhard Fasol

Businessweek Editor David Rocks came three weeks to Japan to report on Japan’s telecommunications and technology sectors, arrived Friday and took me for dinner Friday night. A few days later David Rocks called me during my lunch break and asked me: “if you would meet Masayoshi Son, what would you ask him?” Turned out David was going to interview SoftBank Founder and CEO Masayoshi Son a about an hour later. I proposed three questions. Later David Rocks called me back, and told me Masayoshi Son’s answers, which are enclosed here as well.

My question: Are rumors true, that Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire inside the Japanese Post- and Telecommunications Ministry, in case he is denied a telecommunications license he had applied for?

Masayoshi Son’s answer (as told to me by David Rocks): Yes, these rumors are true, however I did not take any fuel along with me inside the Ministry

My question: I wish Europe would have someone like Masayoshi Son to accelerate innovation in Europe’s telecommunications sector. Do you have plans to expand SoftBank to Europe?

Masayoshi Son’s answer (as told to me by David Rocks): No plans for Europe at this time.

My question: How can you finance your plans to grow your business? Who are your financial backers?

Masayoshi Son’s answer (as told to me by David Rocks): We have sufficient finance to grow SoftBank’s business.

The headline of David Rock’s article “Setting fire to the cell-phone market”, published on October 31, 2004 in Businessweek is based on my first question.

Copyright notice:

The photograph of Masayoshi Son is used under Creative Commons license according to Wikipedia.
Copyright details are:
Description English: Masayoshi Son on July 11, 2008
Date 11 July 2008, 12:11:02
Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikura/2658524938/)
Author Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/people/20119192@N00) from Japan
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en) license.

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