SoftBank paused share buybacks in August ahead of asset sale announcements

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp 9984.T paused share repurchases Aug. 4-31 ahead of major asset sales announcements, a stock exchange filing showed on Tuesday, in a drop-off in support for the stock after spending 1 trillion yen ($9.4 billion) since March.

The Japanese conglomerate “determined that there were facts that could be classified as non-public material facts under insider trading regulation,” it said in the filing.

The group announced a major cut in its stake in wireless unit SoftBank Corp 9434.T on Aug. 28, followed by the sale of chip designer Arm to Nvidia Corp NVDA.O on Sept. 14.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on whether SoftBank is again in a position to buy back shares.

Buybacks have been a major driver for SoftBank’s shares, which climbed 160% from March lows to peak on Aug. 3 when they closed at 6,932 yen.

The shares have since fallen around 8%, and closed flat on Tuesday.

SoftBank previously signalled a slowdown in the pace of its remaining 1.5 trillion yen worth of planned stock repurchases.

The group has been selling assets to fund the buybacks and raise cash. SoftBank has invested in publicly traded tech stocks and, sources told Reuters, in equity derivatives.

Executives are frustrated with SoftBank’s share performance and have held early stage talks on taking the group private, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Reporting by Sam Nussey; editing by Christopher Cushing and Jason Neely