Breakingviews

SoftBank’s solar ambitions fly close to the Son

June 23, 2015

Masayoshi Son has pledged to invest $20 bln in solar energy in India with partners Bharti and Foxconn. The country’s energy needs are clear but synergies with the Japanese group’s internet businesses look dubious. Shareholders can only hope the board clips the chairman’s wings.

How to tell if Japan’s shareholder love-in is real

June 15, 2015

Japan Inc. faces unprecedented pressure to get leaner, better-run, and more profitable. Real success means higher returns on equity. First comes a tough AGM season that could embarrass the likes of Sony and Sharp. Then expect more buybacks, stake sales, activism and M&A.

Tokio Marine learning lessons in value destruction

June 10, 2015

The 38 pct premium the Japanese insurer is paying in its $7.5 bln purchase of HCC is only half as absurd as in its two previous U.S. deals. Those extravagant forays should give it scope to cut costs. By slicing 15 pct of HCC’s overhead it might even finally make a deal stack up.

Japan’s GDP lift is bounty from currency war

June 8, 2015

Output grew 3.9 percent in the first quarter, much faster than the 2.4 percent rate previously estimated. Investments made all the difference. Japanese exporters are ramping up capacity as they use the weak yen to fight for market share. Higher wages may be the next hopeful sign.

SoftBank’s $1 bln Korean deal needs to travel well

June 4, 2015

The Japanese giant has added a stake in South Korea’s Coupang to its portfolio. It’s a big bet on a young company in a relatively small country. The online retailer is leading the shift to mobile shopping. SoftBank may need to export its expertise to justify the investment.

Toyota’s new hybrids should have stayed in the lab

June 2, 2015

The carmaker wants to lure more long-term retail investors. Hence its new “Model AA” securities: untradeable convertibles with, oddly, voting rights. They will do little for the company and disadvantage ordinary shareholders. Better hope Japan Inc. doesn’t follow Toyota’s lead.

Japan lesson on China debt: extend, don’t pretend

May 26, 2015

Asking Chinese banks to roll over loans to local governments is reminiscent of 1990s Japan, where lenders choked good borrowers to keep zombies alive. The real mistake wasn’t extending losses into the future, but pretending banks could lend to everyone else without more capital.

SoftBank lives up to its name with Indian startup

May 19, 2015

Housing.com CEO Rahul Yadav is a venture capital nightmare. The 26 year-old has slammed investors including the Japanese group as intellectually incapable and pledged to give away his shares. SoftBank may value a reputation for being founder-friendly, but being weak is worse.

U.S. trade setback more diplomatic than economic

May 13, 2015

Senators denied President Obama authority to negotiate a new Pacific trade pact. The squabbling contrasts with China’s success in organising its infrastructure bank. But the benefits of both projects are uncertain. The world economy can shrug off the blow to America’s leadership.

SoftBank’s next boss more symbol than succession

May 12, 2015

Chairman Masayoshi Son has no plans to retire but has named ex-Google executive Nikesh Arora as his likely successor. Appointing a foreigner to the role may be mainly a way for SoftBank to gild its international credentials, but the gesture is still a valuable one.