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SoftBank profit betters expectations but caution on Sprint stays

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SoftBank Corp's profit last year beat its own forecast and edged ahead of analysts'estimates but the Japanese telecoms conglomerate skipped issuing a forecast for the current year, showing it was still cautious about its US unit Sprint.

[TOKYO] SoftBank Corp's profit last year beat its own forecast and edged ahead of analysts'estimates but the Japanese telecoms conglomerate skipped issuing a forecast for the current year, showing it was still cautious about its US unit Sprint.

SoftBank reported on Monday a 9 per cent fall in operating profit for the year ended March 31 to 982.7 billion yen (US$8.2 billion). That compared with its own forecast of 900 billion yen and was a shade better than the 980.87 billion average estimate among 20 analysts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

The company did not issue a forecast for the current fiscal year, saying it was difficult to provide estimates due to a large number of uncertain factors.

Profit last year at SoftBank, which purchased No 3 US carrier Sprint Corp for more than US$20 billion in 2013, was hurt by the absence of one-time gains enjoyed the year before.

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The company has been weighed down by the costs of trying to turn around Sprint, which has been intensely competing with larger rivals AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc .

SoftBank, which owns 80 per cent of Sprint, bought the business to expand outside Japan's sluggish economy, but Sprint has undergone a long-haul revamping of its network, shedding thousands of jobs and triggering a mass exodus of subscribers.

SoftBank, led by Chief Executive Masayoshi Son, has made a string of investments in recent years, including $250 million in privately-held Hollywood movie studio Legendary Entertainment, and US$600 million in Travice Inc, the operator of Chinese taxi hailing app Kuaidi Dache.

As well as being the largest investor in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, SoftBank has plans to invest US$10 billion in India's potentially huge but under-developed online retail market. "We expect more investments and acquisitions, even more so than now," Mr Son told reporters in Tokyo. "Going forward, the overseas market will be the main factor for SoftBank." The chief executive said the planned investments and acquisitions made it difficult for SoftBank to issue a profit forecast for the current year.

REUTERS

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