TOKYO -- SoftBank Group has begun preparations to unload the bulk of its stake in U.S. mobile carrier T-Mobile as part of the Japanese tech conglomerate's 4.5 trillion yen ($41.9 billion) asset sale plan to fund share buybacks and debt reduction.
SoftBank owns about 300 million T-Mobile shares, or 24%, with a market value of around $31 billion based on Monday's closing price. The group is looking to raise $20 billion from the sale, U.S. news outlets report.
T-Mobile became an equity-method affiliate of SoftBank in April, after merging with then-group subsidiary Sprint.
SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son previously referred to U.S. telecommunications as "indispensable infrastructure." But with the group now focusing on its $100 billion Vision Fund, which has sustained heavy losses, T-Mobile no longer is considered a core business but rather another investment target. SoftBank is weighing several exit strategies, including a gradual divestment.
The Japanese group already announced plans for raising 1.5 trillion yen, including by tapping its stake in Chinese e-commerce king Alibaba Group Holding and selling shares in mobile unit SoftBank Corp.
SoftBank Group would reach the target of 4.5 trillion yen if it succeeds in selling its entire T-Mobile stake.
But the stake is subject to a lock-up agreement that prohibits SoftBank Group from selling T-Mobile shares for one year. It will negotiate with Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's leading shareholder, to try to lift the provision so it can cash out sooner.