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SoftBank to sell part of stake in China's Alibaba for $7.9 billion

A logo of Alibaba is seen in Wangjing's Greenland Center 3rd Building on February 2, 2015 in Beijing, China. Photograph: (Getty)

PTI Tokyo Jun 01, 2016, 07.22 AM (IST)
Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank announced Wednesday they are planning to sell at least $ 7.9 billion (USD) of its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, as it looks to pay down a whopping debt load.

The move will reduce SoftBank's 32.2 per cent holding in the Chinese company to about 28 per cent with the sale, it said, adding that proceeds would be earmarked to pay down debts.

SoftBank said in a statement it has "approved of a series of capital raising transactions, which involve monetising a portion of the shares of Alibaba".

The Japanese mobile carrier, led by Masayoshi Son, first made its investment in Alibaba in 2000.

"This investment has been phenomenally successful and, over the past 16 years, we have built a close relationship, working together on
many exciting projects," Son said in the statement, adding that the pair would continue to work together.

Led by Son, SoftBank launched an acquisition streak that saw it pick up an assortment of firms, including its $16 billion purchase of US-based mobile giant Sprint.

But the buying spree has put pressure on SoftBank's finances, and the firm also announced earlier this year it would buy back more than 14 per cent of its stock at a cost of about 500 billion yen.

 As per the official statement, Son and Alibaba's executive chairman Jack Ma will remain on the board of the other's firms

"Under the leadership of Masayoshi Son, SoftBank has been a highly valued, long-time partner of Alibaba for more than 16 years, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership together," Ma said in a separate statement.

"As SoftBank looks to strengthen its own balance sheet, Alibaba determined that it was the best use of our capital to re-invest in our own business through an efficient buyback of a large number of shares in our own company that is accretive to our stockholders."

SoftBank said Alibaba itself would buy back at least USD 2.0 billion worth of the shares it is selling.

SoftBank has seen its profits boosted thanks to Alibaba's record USD 25 billion market debut in 2014 in New York.
Today's announcement came after the Chinese online giant disclosed last week that US securities regulators were probing its accounting for possible violations of US securities laws.

SoftBank shares rose more than two percent shortly after the opening bell today.

Alibaba's US-listed shares declined 3.1 per cent yesterday after the announcement of SoftBank's planned share sale. (AFP)
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