March 1, 2021

DealBook: Softbank Offloads Yahoo Stake to Repay Citigroup Loan

Masayoshi Son, chief of Softbank.Jo Yong-Hak/ReutersMasayoshi Son, chief of Softbank.

TOKYO – The Japanese Internet and telecommunications company Softbank said Friday that it would offload most of its 4 percent stake in Yahoo to Citigroup to pay off a $1.1 billion loan.

The sale is the latest step in a gradual unraveling of once-close relations between Yahoo, Softbank and another Asian Internet company, Alibaba.

Softbank said in a statement that it would transfer its Yahoo shares to Citigroup to return a $1.136 billion loan it took out in 2004. Under an agreement made at the time, Softbank would repay either in cash or Yahoo shares.

Softbank’s chief executive, Masayoshi Son, has been openly critical of Yahoo’s pace of innovation. The portal site Yahoo Japan, operated by Softbank, now uses Google technology instead of Yahoo’s. Meanwhile, Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, has been keen to buy back Yahoo’s 40 percent stake in the Chinese company.

Because Yahoo’s share price has slumped almost 50 percent since then, Softbank’s stake is worth about $660 million. After the transfer, the Japanese company’s stake in Yahoo will fall to 0.002 percent.

Softbank, which runs Japan’s third-largest wireless network, owns 42 percent of Yahoo Japan, while Yahoo in the United States has 35 percent. There has been speculation that Yahoo is looking to shed its stake in the joint venture.

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