Don’t call us a telephone company

A singular relationship

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.

That is good going for a firm whose earnings have been lacklustre and which faces big challenges. Providing mobile services is a lucrative affair in Japan—prices are far higher than in other developed countries. But it...

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