Masayoshi Son bets on ARM listing, can SoftBank take this to boost stock prices

SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son reportedly said today that he was thankful that regulators around the world had rejected SoftBank’s sale of British chip designer ARM to Nvidia, as the company now hopes to use ARM’s listing to boost its share price .

“ARM is the cutting-edge engine of the information revolution,” Son said at the annual shareholder meeting. “It is the core of the SoftBank Group’s core.”

A large part of Son’s speech that day was devoted to ARM, the company that dominates the global semiconductor design industry, explaining how the company is gradually gaining market share in areas such as cloud computing and automotive. “ARM will drive all kinds of information revolutions, not just the smartphone revolution,” he said.

That’s in stark contrast to SoftBank’s shareholder meetings over the past few years. At previous shareholder meetings, Masayoshi Son spent a lot of time explaining the Vision Fund. This also reflects the major changes in the global technology market to a certain extent.

SoftBank posted its biggest ever loss in the fiscal year ended March, with a net loss of 1.7 trillion yen ($12.6 billion) for the year as the valuations of the tech stocks it invested in shrunk. The previous year saw a record net profit of 5 trillion yen.

Global IPOs have fallen by more than 50% this year as inflation concerns weigh on investment in tech stocks. Several SoftBank-backed companies, including Chinese drone maker Jifei Technology and Israeli trading platform eToro, have either written down their assets or delayed plans to go public.

After SoftBank announced results last month, Son said he would slow down the pace of investment.

ARM, acquired by SoftBank for $31 billion in 2016, is now SoftBank’s best hope. SoftBank’s revenue rose 35% year-on-year in the fiscal year ended March, helped by growth in shipments of 5G smartphones and telecom equipment. Son is also working to clear IPO hurdles, and said in May that was his main concern in the near term. ARM’s joint venture in China recently resolved a key management issue that had plagued it for two years.

SoftBank has high hopes for a smooth ARM IPO, taking out an $8 billion loan by pledging ARM shares.

Sun Zhengyi said that in order to control market risks, SoftBank will control the ratio of net debt to net asset value below 25%, and the cash on hand is enough to pay for bonds due in two years. “Because of the uncertainty in the market right now,” he said, “our cash position is much higher than usual.”

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