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SoftBank becomes first Japan firm to forgo IPO price range, keeps view at 1,500 yen

FILE PHOTO - The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is seen at the company's headquarters in Tokyo, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Taiga Uranaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - SoftBank chalked up another first in Japan on Friday, setting a single indicative price of 1,500 yen for its telco IPO rather than a price range as usual, pegging the deal at 2.4 trillion yen ($21.16 billion) in the country's biggest-ever listing.

The price was unchanged from the estimate that SoftBank Corp [9434.T], the domestic telecommunications subsidiary of Japan's SoftBank Group Corp (Tokyo:9984.T - News), announced when it launched the initial public offering (IPO) earlier this month.

The price "seems consistent with what we're hearing about relatively strong retail demand," said analyst Chris Lane at Sanford C. Bernstein. "We're not surprised about that demand as the retail investor is really looking at the yield."


SoftBank is set to have an annual dividend yield - or dividend as a percentage of share price - of 5 percent, Reuters calculations showed. That compared with 4.18 percent of mobile market leader NTT DoCoMo Inc (Tokyo:9437.T - News).

"If effectively you're confident that the IPO will be oversubscribed at that price, then there's no need to set a price range," Lane said.

The IPO is aimed at providing the group with funds to pay down debt and place big bets on innovations that Chief Executive Masayoshi Son predicts will drive future tech trends.

Brokerages initially expressed concern over whether there would be sufficient demand for the IPO given the size of the sale but have since reported strong interest.

To help generate that interest, brokerages have been engaged in an unprecedented marketing campaign, including what are believed to be Japan's first TV ads for a private firm's IPO.

"From what we are getting from our customers, we have demand greater than the number of shares we are allocated to sell," said a senior official at one of major brokerage.

Others have said the initial estimate was already high considering the telco's finances compared with its peers.

The IPO's underwriters declined to comment. Bankers, who said it was the first time a firm had foregone a price range in a Japanese IPO, spoke on condition of anonymity.

In IPOs, companies usually set an indicative price range after receiving feedback from institutional investors on initial price estimates. Brokerages then open their order books for a set period, at the end of which a sale price is determined.

For instance, for the June IPO of Mercari Inc (Tokyo:4385.T - News), the flea market app operator initially estimated a share price of 2,200-2,700 yen before formally announcing an indicative range of 2,700-3,000 yen. It set its final IPO price at 3,000 yen.

Bookbuilding for SoftBank Corp starts on Monday with a final price set on Dec. 10. The shares begin trading on Dec. 19.

At 1,500 yen per share, the telco's market value will be about 7.2 trillion yen, making it Japan's eighth-largest listed firm, immediately above Uniqlo clothing chain operator Fast Retailing Co Ltd (Tokyo:9983.T - News).

Fully aware of the mature image of Japan's domestic telecoms business, SoftBank has been pitching itself as a tech-driven growth company, saying it will launch new businesses by teaming up with startups backed by its parent's Vision Fund.

But many retail investors are likely to see SoftBank rather as a stable investment with the added appeal of a high dividend payout. Its 85 percent payout promise is much higher than those of rivals NTT DoCoMo and KDDI Corp (Tokyo:9433.T - News).

Nomura, Mizuho, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and SMBC Nikko are joint global coordinators for the IPO.

(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Additional reporting by Daniel Leussink, Hideyuki Sano, Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Christopher Cushing)