Mention Softbank and most Japanese people, understandably, think of telecoms—it is Japan’s third-largest wireless carrier. The company hopes to weaken that association. SoftBank is listing its telecoms arm; shares in the unit were due to begin trading on December 19th, after The Economist had gone to press. SoftBank Group was expected to raise ¥2.6trn ($23.4bn) by selling off just over a third of the company. It is selling 1.76bn shares for ¥1,500 each, making it Japan’s biggest-ever initial public offering and only just shy of the record set by Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce titan in which SoftBank Group owns a stake of about 29%, in 2014.
The IPO’s attractions are equally clear for Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, who is shifting his firm away from telecoms towards investing in tech entrepreneurs around the world. Through his Vision Fund, an investment vehicle financed in large part by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, he has bought stakes in companies such as Uber, WeWork and Arm (a British chip firm). The IPO is a way to take some cash out of a part of SoftBank that is not growing as swiftly and to put it into racier bets, while retaining control.