SoftBank profit slides amid fewer new subscribers

CEO Son is looking for a windfall from the IPO of Alibaba, in which SoftBank owns a stake

By Tim Hornyak, IDG News Service |  

Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank saw its profit dwindle dramatically in the April to June quarter as customer growth slowed.

Japan's third-biggest mobile phone company logged a net profit of ¥77.57 billion (US$759 million) for the quarter, down 68 percent from ¥244 billion a year earlier.

It added 557,000 mobile subscribers during the period, compared to 810,000 a year earlier.

CEO Masayoshi Son said at an earnings presentation that the company's net profit slide and a 15.6 percent decrease in operating profit to ¥337 billion was because last year it raised its stake in Gungho Online Entertainment, maker of the wildly popular "Puzzle & Dragons" game, and consolidated other companies, which boosted its earnings.

SoftBank's results may change when Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, in which it has a 34.4 percent stake, conducts its IPO, expected in September.

Son maintained SoftBank's revenue target of ¥8 trillion for the year to March 31, up significantly from the ¥6.6 trillion the company reported for the year ended March 31.

That's despite the derailment this week of the company's growth plans for its U.S. mobile phone subsidiary Sprint.

Sprint has dropped its bid to acquire fourth-ranked T-Mobile USA amid resistance from regulators. Son declined to comment on the shift, only repeating that he believes having two large mobile players doesn't offer U.S. consumers enough choice.

Sprint has improved its network infrastructure, with better call, data and LTE accessibility, Son said, adding the company will now focus on reversing its loss of subscribers through network improvements while reducing costs.

He hailed new Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, founder of wireless services firm Brightstar, as a "street fighter" who would help turn around the company.

"Sprint led by Marcelo is going to be quite interesting, and I have high expectations," Son said.

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