Japan’s SoftBank drops 10% after OneWeb files for bankruptcy protection

REUTERS/Issei Kato

SoftBank Group Corp. fell as much as 10% after a satellite operator it invested in filed for bankruptcy, ceding some gains from an unprecedented plan to sell assets and buy back shares.

OneWeb made the filing late Friday U.S. time after raising about $3.3 billion in debt and equity financing from shareholders including SoftBank, Airbus SE and Qualcomm Inc. since its inception. At least $1 billion of that came from SoftBank, which said it first invested in December 2016 and declined to give a total amount.

It is the latest blow to SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, who last week unveiled a plan to raise $41 billion to buy back shares and slash debt. The announcement sent the shares soaring more than 50% in just a few days. The rally was interrupted when Moody’s Corp. cut its debt rating by two notches, saying the Japanese investment firm’s plan to sell off assets during a market downturn threatened its total value. SoftBank’s shares traded 6.7% lower on Monday morning in Tokyo.

Son had often pointed to OneWeb as one of the cornerstones of an investment portfolio that ranges from ride sharing, co-working and robotics to agriculture, cancer detection and autonomous driving. The startup was working on providing affordable high-speed access anywhere in the world and targeting 1 billion subscribers by 2025. Son has painted a picture of a future where satellite networks cover every inch of the Earth and a trillion devices connected to the internet disgorge data into the cloud where it is analyzed by artificial intelligence.

OneWeb listed liabilities and assets of more than $1 billion each in its Chapter 11 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York. The company had been in advanced discussions earlier in the year for a fresh investment, it said in a statement. But the discussions fell apart after the coronavirus pandemic sent markets into a tailspin, it said.

The company had been mulling a Chapter 11 filing even as it continued to review possible out-of-court alternatives, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News on March 19.

The satellite operator said it will pursue a sale process during the court reorganization and is in talks for so-called debtor-in-possession financing that would allow the company to fund its obligations during the proceedings.

OneWeb makes low-orbit satellites that provide high-speed communications. It faces high-profile competition, including from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink project and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon-linked Project Kuiper effort, while incumbents in the space include Inmarsat, Intelsat SA and Eutelsat Communications SA.

At the time of its filing, OneWeb owed $238 million to Arianespace, its satellite launch operator, according to the court document. Arianespace, headquartered near Paris, describes itself on its website as the world’s first commercial space transportation company.

Bloomberg

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.