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Softbank's debt fears resurface following a $9.5 billion bailout for WeWork

While the price tag for SoftBank to rescue the debt-riddled US shared-office startup isn't seen as big relative to its total investment portfolio, concern is growing about the impact on its leverage

Ayai Tomisawa | Bloomberg 


Concern about Group's massive debt load has reared its head again after the company unveiled a $9.5 billion bailout for this week, hurting its shares and bonds.

While the price tag for to rescue the debt-riddled US shared-office startup isn’t seen as big relative to its total investment portfolio, concern is growing about the impact on its leverage. Analysts expect its loan-to-value ratio, a key metric looking at its net interest-bearing debt against the value of investments, to rise as a result of the acquisition, though they generally see it staying below the company’s target.

“This announcement is a fundamental credit negative for Group,” wrote Mary Pollock, a senior analyst at CreditSights, in a report. She said the deal will increase SoftBank’s LTV to 22.8 per cent. Son has said he wants to keep that gauge below 25 per cent. The gauge was at 18 per cent as of Friday.

SoftBank spokeswoman Hiroe Kotera said, “Our company’s financial policy has not changed.”

Separate news also fueled concern about the value of the investment portfolio at billionaire Masayoshi Son’s firm, which could also impact the key LTV ratio. The company is planning to take a writedown to its Vision Fund of at least $5 billion to reflect a plunge in the value of some of its biggest holdings, including and Uber Technologies Inc., according to people with knowledge of the matter. Read more about that here.

Rating haven’t changed their debt scores for SoftBank after the WeWork news. Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings grade it as junk.

The price of SoftBank’s most recent yen notes fell to the lowest since they were issued last month, and the cost to insure its debt against default touched the highest level since January.

SoftBank’s shares dropped 6.6 per cent this week, the worst performance in 2 1/2 months. Atul Goyal, an analyst at Jefferies, cut SoftBank to Hold on Friday, one of only two analysts out of 19 tracking the company to confer that rating.

“SoftBank would be an interesting stock for gambling purposes as it’s volatile, but I don’t think it’s a stable investment product for fixed-income traders,” said Katsuyuki Tokushima, head of pension research of financial research department at NLI Research Institute.

First Published: Sat, October 26 2019. 08:57 IST