Sprint parent SoftBank to sell at least $7.9B stake in Alibaba to shore up finances

Sprint (NYSE:S) parent SoftBank confirmed it will sell at least $7.9 billion of its stake in Alibaba to bolster its finances as its U.S. carrier continues to struggle.

SoftBank CEO and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son initially invested $20 million in Alibaba in 2000 and now owns 32 percent of the Chinese e-commerce giant. The stake would decline to 28 percent following the share sale, although the companies said they would maintain a strategic partnership.

The Japanese telecom in March said it would separate its domestic wireless business from its majority stake in Sprint and other overseas operations. Nikesh Arora, a former Google executive who was named president of SoftBank last year, was tasked with the overseas management company, while Ken Miyauchi was tapped to head the Japanese telecom business as well as other domestic endeavors.

SoftBank is also said to be considering a sale of its stake in Supercell, the Finnish smartphone game publisher, to lower its debt.

Sprint has continued to weigh down shares of its parent company as it struggles to regain its footing in the U.S. wireless market. It reported a net loss of $554 million during the first quarter of 2016, more than doubling the $224 million loss it recorded during the same period in 2015.

Meanwhile, Sprint has secured $11 billion in "total committed liquidity," as Wells Fargo Securities analysts noted last week, primarily from SoftBank's creation of financing vehicles involving Sprint's network assets and leased handsets. And Sprint recently announced a $2 billion bridge financing arrangement with Mizuho Bank, and another leasing vehicle for its spectrum assets.

Sprint owes $10 billion that will come due by the end of 2020 and must make $2.3 billion in debt payments this year. And a flagging junk bond market will likely make it more difficult for the carrier to refinance its debt in the coming months.

Concerns over Sprint's looming debt have taken a toll on SoftBank. Shares of the Japanese firm dropped 18 percent over a four-day slide in January due to concerns Sprint may not be able to meet its financial obligations.

Son last month credited Sprint's dramatic budget cuts for helping to raise SoftBank's operating profit by 8.8 percent in its recently completed fiscal year, and he predicted the U.S. operator will "see a V-shaped recovery."

For more:
- see this Reuters report

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