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2012年10月18日 (木)

ソフトバンク 吉と出るか米携帯会社の買収

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 18, 2012)
Will SoftBank's purchase of Sprint be a ringing success?
ソフトバンク 吉と出るか米携帯会社の買収(10月17日付・読売社説)

SoftBank Corp. President Masayoshi Son is again making a big gamble with his pursuit of a policy of aggressive business expansion.

Whether his company's investment in a U.S. mobile phone carrier will prove fruitful is sure to receive much attention.

SoftBank, the third-largest wireless carrier in Japan, announced Monday plans to purchase Sprint Nextel Corp., the No. 3 mobile operator in the United States. SoftBank plans to buy about 70 percent of Sprint's shares for 20.1 billion dollars (1.57 trillion yen) to make the U.S. firm its subsidiary.

With the purchase, SoftBank would jump to more than 90 million subscriptions in Japan and the United States combined, far exceeding the domestic number of Japan's largest carrier, NTT Docomo Inc. Its sales are expected to rank third in the world if the deal goes through.

The domestic mobile phone market has reached a saturation point, with no room for further growth. Under the circumstances, SoftBank has decided to expand its business to North America through the purchase of the U.S. mobile carrier.


Era of realignment

The telecommunications industry has changed dramatically recently with the spread of smartphones and next-generation high-speed networks, such as the Long-Term Evolution. As international competition to provide goods and services at universal standards is now fully under way, the industry has entered an era of realignment that will take it beyond national borders.

SoftBank and Sprint both sell Apple Inc.'s iPhone as their flagship product. SoftBank seems to think its planned expansion would put it in a position where it can negotiate better prices from Apple.

Ultra-low interest rates and a historically high yen provided a tailwind for the deal. Other domestic companies can look to SoftBank's strategy of pushing ahead with international mergers and acquisitions as an example.

SoftBank has used corporate acquisitions as an engine to drive the growth of its business. It previously purchased Japan Telecom Co. and Vodafone Japan, the Japanese arm of British company Vodafone, and only earlier this month agreed to acquire eAccess Ltd., the fourth-largest domestic wireless carrier.


Areas of concern

Nevertheless, there are some causes for concern regarding SoftBank's planned purchase of Sprint.

First, Sprint lags far behind its two biggest U.S. competitors in terms of subscribers, and has suffered a loss for five straight years. It remains to be seen whether SoftBank can synergistically improve the U.S. company's business performance.

SoftBank's financial standing is expected to deteriorate considerably through the deal. The firm plans to raise cash for the purchase through bank loans, which would boost the firm's interest-bearing debt to about 4 trillion yen. This could prove to be a heavy financial burden. The radical moves by SoftBank's stock price after the acquisition deal was announced indicate the market is watching the deal warily.

Troubles with communication networks have been unceasing as telecommunication capacity has failed to keep up with the market's demands, which has been exacerbated by the spread of smartphones. Japan's complex and expensive rate system, the highest in the world, has also been the subject of much criticism.

There have also been persistent complaints over poor connections, especially among SoftBank subscribers. We hope the firm remembers to improve service for domestic subscribers, such as by expanding its communication infrastructure to provide a better transmission environment, and lowering rates.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2012)
(2012年10月17日01時32分  読売新聞)


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