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Sep. 25, 2013, 11:40 AM
- During a Goldman conference talk, T-Mobile USA (TMUS +2.3%) CFO Braxton Carter called a merger between his company and Sprint (S -2.3%) the "logical ultimate combination." But he also admitted the current M&A regulatory environment is "tough."
- T-Mobile and Sprint have been bleeding share in recent years to bigger rivals Verizon and AT&T. However, T-Mobile has begun to reverse its fortunes with the help of an iPhone deal, contract-free plans, and its Jump smartphone upgrade program. Sprint is betting aggressive pricing and a rapid 4G buildout will help it do the same.
- Regulators may not be the only reason a T-Mobile/Sprint deal would be challenging in the near-term. T-Mobile is in the midst of digesting MetroPCS, and Sprint is fresh off acquiring Clearwire and merging with SoftBank (SFTBF.PK).
- Separately, SoftBank has extended Sprint CEO Dan Hesse's contract through July 2018.
Sep. 25, 2013, 2:50 AM
- Alibaba reportedly plans to carry out its blockbuster IPO in the U.S. after negotiations with the Hong Kong stock exchange broke down over the e-commerce giant's demand that its "partners" - a group of founders and senior managers - maintain control over the composition of the board.
- Listing in New York would allow the partners to keep their grip of the company due to the possibility of creating a dual-class structure where one set of shares provides more voting rights than another.
- Alibaba has hired U.S. law firms to start working on the listing and intends to soon appoint banks.
- The IPO could raise an estimated HK$100B ($12.9B) and value Alibaba at up to $120B. That would be a boon to Yahoo (YHOO) and Softbank (SFTBF.PK), which own 24% and 35% respectively.
Sep. 16, 2013, 12:17 PM
- The program, called Sprint One Up (S +0.1%), will reportedly launch on Sep. 20. It will allow Sprint subs to obtain a new smartphone for no money down and $27/month.
- Interestingly, they'll also get a $15/month discount on Sprint's Unlimited voice/text/data plan ($65 instead of $80). Users will be able to trade in their phones after a year. Existing subs who have been on contract for a year or longer will be eligible.
- In a leaked slide, Sprint asserts a One Up sub will pay $1,192 in total phone and service fees in the first 12 months, $228 less than a subscriber to T-Mobile USA's (TMUS +0.2%) Jump upgrade plan and over $500 less than subscribers to AT&T's (T +0.6%) Next plan or Verizon's (VZ +0.9%) Edge plan; AT&T and Verizon's early upgrade pricing has already been criticized.
- SoftBank (SFTBF.PK, SFTBY.PK) has promised Sprint will price its services aggressively going forward. Sprint overhauled its service plans shortly after the SoftBank deal closed, but the price cuts offered weren't as steep as some expected.
Sep. 16, 2013, 11:08 AM
- China Unicom (CHU +0.6%) says its iPhone 5S/5C (AAPL -2.6%) reservations have topped 100K since it began taking them last week. Last year, Unicom took 200K+ iPhone 5 reservations in the phone's first two days of availability.
- Meanwhile, China Telecom (CHA +2.5%) has cut its iPhone subsidies. A subscriber signing up for an RMB289/month ($47/month) plan will get an iPhone 5S subsidy of RMB2890, 15% less than the RMB3400 subsidy it provided for the iPhone 5. It's worth noting CHA's ARPU is below $10.
- The Chinese figures come amidst sharp criticism of the 5C's unsubsidized pricing, which starts at $735 in China. For reference, upstart Xiaomi's new Mi3 flagship Android phone (5" 1080p display, 13MP camera) starts at $327 in the Middle Kingdom.
- On the other hand, Japanese carriers are aggressively subsidizing the 5S in the wake of NTT DoCoMo's (DCM +0.7%) iPhone deal. DoCoMo, SoftBank (SFTBF.PK), and KDDI are each providing the 5S for free with 2-year contracts for certain plans.
- Kantar Japan recently estimated 2/3 of DoCoMo subs who have been leaving the carrier ended up buying an iPhone.
- Also: Bernstein thinks Apple could still come out with a cheaper iPhone in the form of a sub-$400 iPhone 4C that puts the iPhone 4's components inside a 5C body.
Sep. 5, 2013, 2:25 PM
- The Japanese paper says DoCoMo (DCM +1.1%) is likely to announce a partnership with Apple (AAPL -0.8%) on the day of its iPhone launch. Apple has announced an iPhone satellite event will take place in Tokyo (along with ones in Beijing and Berlin) hours after its main Sep. 10 event in Cupertino.
- A DoCoMo EVP suggested last month a deal could be close. Previous talks between Apple and DoCoMo reportedly faltered due to Apple's purchase requirements and DoCoMo's insistence on pre-installing some of its apps.
- DoCoMo, by far Japan's largest carrier (60M+ subs, 1/4 of which are now using 4G phones), has been losing share to SoftBank (SFTBF.PK) and KDDI in large part due to its failure to carry the iPhone. Though DoCoMo's sub base is much smaller than China Mobile's 740M, a much larger portion of it can afford a $450+ (unsubsidized) phone.
- Japan is the iPhone's strongest major international market. Thanks largely to iPhone sales, Apple's Japanese revenue rose 27% Y/Y in FQ3 to $2.5B, even as revenue fell 14% in Greater China and 18% in the rest of Asia-Pac.
- Update: Bloomberg reports Apple is "near a final agreement" with DoCoMo, and that the carrier "may begin offering the iPhone later this year."
- Update 2: Reuters has joined the fray.
Sep. 4, 2013, 8:10 PM
- Sprint (S) has sold $2.25B worth of 7.25% notes due 2021, and $4.25B worth of 7.875% notes due 2023. (PR)
- The #3 U.S. carrier, fresh off receiving a cash infusion from 78% owner SoftBank (SFTBF.PK), says it will use the proceeds for "general corporate purposes, which may include, among other things, redemptions or service requirements of outstanding debt and network expansion and modernization."
- The WSJ reports the deal saw $10B in orders, and "was so large that Sprint could not capture the lowest rates possible." A source says a likely priority for the funds is the redemption of the $4B in debt held by Clearwire.
- SoftBank has made it clear it intends to have Sprint invest aggressively to build out its 4G infrastructure. Verizon and (to a lesser extent) AT&T have big head starts here.
- Verizon is in the midst of raising $63B in debt to help finance its $130B (half-cash, half-stock) purchase of Vodafone's 45% Verizon Wireless stake.
Jul. 19, 2013, 4:45 AMVivendi (VIVEF.PK) reportedly turned down an $8.5B offer it received three months ago from SoftBank (SFTBY.PK) for Universal Music. Analysts reacted with frustration to the report, as SoftBank's offer was $2-3B more than some of them reckon Universal is worth. While the French media and telecom conglomerate is under pressure to split itself up and has been looking to sell telecom operations, it views the music business as core. | Comment!
Jul. 11, 2013, 4:18 PMSprint (S) overhauls its prices and provides lifetime unlimited voice/data guarantees just a day after the SoftBank (SFTBF.PK) merger closed. The carrier is offering smartphone users unlimited voice/text/data for $80/month for the first line on an account, with the price gradually dropping for lines 2-4. A $110/month plan that throws in 5GB of hotspot usage is also being rolled out. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has made it clear Sprint will compete aggressively on price against AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), who have been trying to migrate subs to costly shared data plans. Sprint's announcement shortly follows the launch of T-Mobile's (TMUS) Jump smartphone upgrade plan. | Comment!
Jul. 10, 2013, 6:51 PMT-Mobile USA (TMUS) CEO John Legere says his firm is open to tie-ups with Dish (DISH) and Sprint (S). "When I look at the medium to long term, I'm intrigued by Dish's vision," says Legere amidst widespread speculation Dish will try to partner with or acquire T-Mobile now that Sprint/Clearwire are off the table. He hints any deal with Sprint, which will have its hands full in the coming months digesting Clearwire and merging with SoftBank (SFTBF.PK), wouldn't be a near-term proposition. "When we look at the medium to long term, we don't know what the industry structure looks like." (Jump plan: I, II) | Comment!
Jul. 8, 2013, 8:51 AMSprint (S) shareholders back Softbank's (SFTBF.PK) $21.6B offer to acquire 78% of the U.S. carrier, with investors representing 53% choosing to receive $5.65 in cash and 0.26174408 share of new Sprint for each existing share owned. Around 3% elected to receive just stock, while the 44% of shares that didn't vote will get cash. The companies expect to close the merger on Wednesday. Meanwhile, S&P has downgraded Softbank's debt by two notches into "junk" territory, citing the risks from its purchase of Sprint and the latter's proposed acquisition of Clearwire (CLWR). (PR) | 7 Comments
Jul. 5, 2013, 4:22 PM
Jun. 28, 2013, 3:35 AMThe Federal Communications Commission does not reportedly intend to demand the sale of any spectrum as part of Sprint's (S) purchase of the almost 50% in Clearwire (CLWR) that it doesn't already own. FCC commissioners could vote on an order recommending the deal today, as well as on SoftBank's (SFTBF.PK) purchase of Sprint. FCC approval of the latter transaction is the last hurdle the companies have to overcome. | 4 Comments
Jun. 25, 2013, 11:18 AMSprint (S +0.9%) shareholders have approved the company's merger with SoftBank (SFTBF.PK); a company spokesman says 80% of outstanding shares (and 98% of votes cast) were voted in favor of the deal. SoftBank's revised deal gives the Japanese carrier a 78% stake in Sprint, and existing investors $5.50/share in cash to go with some equity. | 7 Comments
Jun. 21, 2013, 3:07 AMSoftBank (SFTBF.PK) CEO Masayoshi Son has forecast that his company's $21.6B acquisition of Sprint (S) should achieve savings of ¥200B ($2B) a year over the next four years. The deal should be completed early next month, barring a late twist involving Dish (DISH) or regulatory problems, Son said at a shareholders meeting. He acknowledged that SoftBank considered buying T-Mobile (TMUS) as an alternative to Sprint. | Comment!
Jun. 18, 2013, 7:31 PMDish (DISH) is all but officially abandoning its bid for Sprint (S). In a fresh update, the satellite TV provider says the revised SoftBank (SFTBF.PK) deal makes it "impracticable" for it to submit a new offer by Sprint's June 18 deadline, and that it will now focus its "efforts and resources" on the Clearwire (CLWR) tender offer. It increasingly looks as if SoftBank will end up with Sprint (vote on June 25), and Dish with a big minority stake in Clearwire that it could use to obtain a 4G network/spectrum deal with the 3 other parties in this saga. S -1.8% AH. CLWR +1.8%. (previous) | 16 Comments
Jun. 14, 2013, 11:21 AMT-Mobile USA (TMUS +3.3%) is "Plan B" for SoftBank (SFTBF.PK) if its merger with Sprint (S +0.3%) doesn't go through, says CEO Masayoshi Son. But Son adds he "[plans] to go with Plan A if possible." Reuters reported last week SoftBank is talking with Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY.PK) about buying its 74% stake in T-Mobile USA if the Sprint merger fails thanks to a rival bid from Dish (DISH). For now, Sprint's board (unlike Clearwire's) is spurning Dish. As always, Son isn't lacking for confidence. "I am determined to be No. 1 in the world very soon in my industry ... You are lucky not to be my competitor." | 3 Comments
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