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Shuli Ren

SoftBank Is Japan’s HNA. That’s Good

Just don’t call it a telco.

Masayoshi Son just needs to learn how to exit investments as well as making them.

Masayoshi Son just needs to learn how to exit investments as well as making them.

Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Many companies would shy from being lumped alongside indebted Chinese investment groups such as Fosun International Ltd. and HNA Group Co. It’s a comparison that Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. should welcome.

Masayoshi Son’s company is trying to shed its image as a telecom operator. SoftBank’s U.S. carrier Sprint Corp. has agreed to merge with competitor T-Mobile US Inc., leaving the Japanese parent with only a 27 percent stake in the combined firm (Masa had insisted on control in earlier talks). Meanwhile, SoftBank is preparing to list its Japanese wireless unit. That’s come at a cost: To pave the way for the flotation, SoftBank had to alienate Asian private banks that enthusiastically bought into its dollar bond offerings in 2017.