SoftBank’s IPhone Edge Erased by Docomo: Chart of the Day

SoftBank Corp. lost its subscriber growth lead for the first time in 4 1/2 years after rivals joined it in offering Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

The CHART OF THE DAY tracks Japanese customer additions for SoftBank since NTT Docomo Inc. became the nation’s last wireless carrier to offer the iPhone in September last year. Billionaire Masayoshi Son’s company trailed its larger rival last quarter, just the second time since SoftBank became the first to offer the smartphone in Japan in 2008.

“Until Docomo’s introduction of the iPhone, its subscribers were an all-you-can eat buffet for SoftBank,” said Makoto Kikuchi, chief executive officer at Myojo Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “Son’s attention has shifted overseas. Domestically, they are in a defensive mode.”

Son is relying on domestic earnings to help fund his expansion into the U.S. market after the $22 billion acquisition of Sprint Corp. last year. Increased competition at home complicates the Tokyo-based carrier’s balancing act of paying to turn around the money-losing U.S. operations and servicing its 9.98 trillion yen ($84 billion) of debt.

Docomo, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, led the country’s net user additions for the three months ended September with 729,000 subscribers, according to Bloomberg Industries data compiled from company reports. KDDI Corp., No. 2, added 580,000, followed by SoftBank’s 565,000, the data show.

SoftBank last month forecast its first profit drop in nine years amid customer losses at Sprint as competition for new subscribers in the U.S. intensified. Son said at the time acquisitions going forward will focus on Asian Internet companies.

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