SoftBank, while not well-known in the United States, is a major player in Asia, where it’s one of the biggest Internet and telecommunications companies and is Japan’s third-largest wireless provider with more than 30 million customers.
Headquartered in Tokyo, the company has 22,500 employees, 196 subsidiaries and 97 related companies. SoftBank has a market capitalization of approximately $45 billion.
And the name? Software is called “soft” in Japanese – “SoftBank” literally means “a bank of software,” reflective of its aim to be a major services provider in the information era.
SoftBank operates as a holding company with five segments:
- Fixed-line telecommunications
- e-Commerce services
- Information technology-related products
The company has a very successful track record of improving its competitive position and driving mobile growth and financial performance in prior acquisitions. Softbank established Yahoo! Japan through a joint investment with Yahoo in 1996; subsequently they acquired Japan Telecom in 2004. In 2006, SoftBank acquired Vodafone K.K., the #3 mobile provider in Japan. Since the Vodafone acquisition, SoftBank has outperformed every other carrier and doubled its subscriber base. SoftBank also holds a large stake in China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba.
The company is headed by CEO Masayoshi (“Masa”) Son, an entrepreneur who founded SoftBank in 1981 as a distributor of computer software.
A third-generation son of a Korean family in Japan, Masa studied English and computer science before moving to the United States at the age of 16. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in economics and studied computer science.