SoftBank sold Alibaba shares to reassure investors, finance chief admits

SoftBank sold a large part of its stake in Alibaba to “instantly show” investors its finances were solid after logging a record quarterly loss of $23bn, the technology conglomerate’s chief financial officer has said.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Yoshimitsu Goto acknowledged that after years of playing down the possibility of any sudden, large-scale exit from its stake in the Chinese ecommerce giant, SoftBank’s announcement of the sale last week was abrupt.

Goto dismissed market concerns that SoftBank’s continued heavy losses could strain its relationship with lenders, but admitted that the Alibaba share sale was intended to reassure investors in what is one of Japan’s most highly leveraged companies.

“In times like this, it is critical as an investment group to instantly show that our financial strength is rock solid,” Goto said.

The Alibaba stake sale, which was accompanied by what some investors said was inadequate explanation from SoftBank, prompted some to question whether it was actually a move to address a looming financial emergency.

Only two days after reporting its worst quarterly performance, SoftBank revealed that it would post a gain of ¥4.6tn ($33.6bn) by selling shares in Alibaba, significantly reducing the investment on which founder Masayoshi Son built his name as one of the world’s greatest technology investors.

Goto said the move was designed to mirror the previous sale of some of SoftBank’s most prized holdings which…

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