SoftBank Overtakes MUFG as Japan’s No. 2 Company

SoftBank Corp., the mobile-phone company founded by billionaire Masayoshi Son, overtook Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. as the nation’s No. 2 company by market value today.

SoftBank shares jumped 4 percent to 7,530 yen at the close of trading in Tokyo, its highest level since May 17, 2000, just after the peak of the dot-com bubble. Today’s gain boosted its market capitalization to 9.04 trillion yen ($92.4 billion), up from 8.69 trillion yen yesterday, compared to 8.72 trillion yen for Japan’s biggest lender, Mitsubishi UFJ. Shares of the nation’s largest company, Toyota Motor Corp., are worth 21.55 trillion yen.

“Japanese banks, in a sense, have lost the significance that they once had as the economy becomes more sophisticated,” said Amir Anvarzadeh, a manager of Japanese equity sales at BGC Partners Inc. in Singapore. By contrast, “investors think that anything Son touches turns to gold and some are even calling him the Bill Gates of Japan.”

Son, who is also SoftBank’s chairman, is forecasting record domestic earnings this year as he accelerates the addition of new subscribers and after buying a controlling stake in Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless company, in July for $21.6 billion. Also stoking shares was a report that SoftBank sold more Apple Inc. new-model iPhones in Japan than NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp. during the first three days, as well as optimism over an initial public offering of China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., in which SoftBank has a stake. Son’s net worth is $14.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Gains in SoftBank’s market value means it will also become the second-most heavily weighted stock on Japan’s Topix index, which tracks 1,744 of Japan’s biggest companies, as of tomorrow. This may trigger further buying of the stock by passive investment funds, Anvarzadeh said.

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