Softbank CEO Son Says Government Pressuring Him to Keep Aozora Bank Shares in the Family

Back to Contents of Issue: September 2002

* SOFTBANK'S CEO MASAYOSHI SON in July criticized the government for pressuring him on the sale of Softbank's shares in Aozora Bank (formerly Nihon Credit Trust Bank). Softbank owns about 50 percent of Aozora Bank, which it bought from the government when the bank was nationalized due to its insolvency, and it's planning to sell some of its shares. US buyout fund Cerberus already has shares in the bank and is thought to be one of the possible buyers. But the Japanese monetary authorities have said that they would rather that Softbank not sell to a foreign interest. In a press conference held in Tokyo in July, Son said that the government has been pressuring him.

*** COMMENTARY: As always, Son is fighting back. Let's face it: Softbank's balance sheet is worsening and he needs to sell whatever he can. He doesn't want the government to get in his way. Last month, there was a lot of talk on this issue. The Nikkei reported last month that Japan's Financial Services Agency does not want buyout funds to become major shareholders in financial institutions. According to the report, the FSA plans to limit major shareholders (those who own more than 20 percent of shares) to financial institutions that are committed to long-term management.

Meanwhile, the minister for financial services, Hakuo Yanagisawa, commented this summer that the possible sale of Aozora shares would harm Son's reputation. He was called to a lower house committee and said that while he is considering the sale of Aozora shares, he has yet to decide what to do.

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