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SoftBank Group Corp. is currently seeking buyers for about $ 20 billion of its shares in T-Mobile US, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. If the proposed sale goes through, its proceeds could help offset SoftBank’s heavy investment losses over the past year.

According to its first-quarter earnings report yesterday, SoftBank’s Vision Fund lost $ 17.4 billion in value for the year ended March 31, obliterating the $ 12.8 billion gain the fund recorded a year ago. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to sell up to $ 41 billion of its assets to increase its share buyback program.

T-Mobile’s merger with SoftBank-controlled Sprint, which was officially completed last month, gave SoftBank ownership of about 25% of T-Mobile’s shares.

Bloomberg reports that under the proposed deal, which could be announced this week, SoftBank would sell part of its stake to Deutsche Telekom AG, T-Mobile’s parent company. Deutsche Telekom currently owns about 44% of T-Mobile’s shares, but would achieve majority ownership if the deal with SoftBank goes through. Softbank would then sell some of its remaining stake to other investors in a secondary offering.

T-Mobile is the United States’ third-largest wireless carrier, after AT&T and Verizon Wireless*, and it has a current market capitalization of about $ 126 billion, which means SoftBank’s stake is worth about $ 31 billion, while Deutsche Telekom’s is about $ 55 billion.

According to the Wall Street Journal, banks including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sach Group are currently seeking investors for the proposed sale.

TechCrunch has contacted SoftBank Group and T-Mobile for comment.

*Disclosure: Verizon is TechCrunch’s parent company.


TechCrunch

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

In December of 2019, this column wrote an entry detailing Uber’s micro-mobility efforts. Just six months ago — a mere two quarters — Uber’s Jump team was on the record saying that its parent company wanted to “double down on micro-mobility.” At the time, before COVID-19 and the decline in human travel, it made some sense.

Things have changed for both Uber and micro-mobility sector. Uber’s financial performance was looking up before the pandemic, with the company promising a more aggressive adjusted profitability timeline. Lime, a dockless scooter company, was also making noise about profits—or something close to them.

Both goals now seem out of reach. Bird and Lime, the best-known American scooter companies, have both cut staff this year. And The Information recently reported that Uber may invest in Lime at a dramatically lowered valuation with an option to buy the company at a later date.

As Uber already has its own micro-mobility bet (recall that it bought JUMP and thus has its own scooters in-market), why would it go through the bother of repricing Lime to maybe buy it later? The Information notes that Uber’s own micro-mobility bet is expensive. But given Lime’s own persistent losses and cash burn I couldn’t make the idea square in my head. So, this morning let’s peek at Uber’s numbers ahead of earnings and see what we can learn about its 2019 in the micro-mobility world, and if that helps us understand why it might drop up to nine figures on Lime during the smaller company’s struggles.


TechCrunch

Netflix is picking up “The Lovebirds,” an upcoming romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae.

“The Lovebirds” reunites Nanjiani with director Michael Showalter. Their previous collaboration, “The Big Sick,” was distributed by Amazon Studios, who gave it a theatrical release before moving to streaming.

This is part of the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced Hollywood studios to scramble as theaters close amidst a broader push for social distancing. Responses have ranged from delaying major releases to releasing movies early, either as digital rentals or via subscription streaming services like Disney+.

Paramount has already delayed a number of its releases, including “The Lovebirds” (originally scheduled for April 3) and “A Quiet Place II.” This is the first time the outbreak has prompted one of the major studios to have cancel a theatrical release entirely in favor of Netflix, but Paramount had an existing deal with the streamer and previously chose to distribute “The Cloverfield Paradox” via Netflix rather than theaters.

There does not appear to be an official announcement or release date yet. Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter are both reporting on the deal.

This approach likely makes more sense for a mid-budget romantic comedy like “The Lovebirds” than it does for a big-budget blockbuster — but according to The Wrap, Warner Bros. is even considering a streaming release for this summer’s “Wonder Woman.”


TechCrunch

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that SoftBank Group is using regulatory investigations as a way to back out of its commitment to buy $ 3 billion in shares from existing WeWork shareholders.

WeWork’s spectacular train wreck of an initial public offering was an early harbinger that the good times might be over for a cohort of later-stage investments valued at multiple billions of dollars. And the buyout package was part of a broader effort by SoftBank to work out some of the issues at the most troubled company in its broad portfolio of high-priced, highly valued private startups.

Among those who would be left out of a potential buyback plan is WeWork’s founder and former chief executive, Adam Neumann, who was set to receive up to $ 970 million for his shares in the co-working company.

Citing a notice sent to WeWork shareholders, the Journal reported that if SoftBank reneged on the buyback, it would not go back on its commitment to give the office sharing company a $ 5 billion lifeline.

According to the Journal’s reporting, the deal to buy back shares isn’t canceled, and could just be an effort to renegotiate terms in light of the global economic slowdown caused by the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, the SEC and the Justice Department, along with New York state regulators, have asked for information from SoftBank about WeWork’s business practices and communications to investors.


TechCrunch

Trump said in July that some U.S. suppliers would be allowed to sell to Huawei while it remains blacklisted, but so far no vendors have been allowed to do so. Reuters reports that more than 130 applications have been submitted by companies that want to do business with Huawei, but the U.S. Commerce Department has not approved any of them yet.

Huawei has served as a bargaining chip in the U.S.-China trade war, which escalated again last week when Trump said he would adds tariffs to $ 550 billion worth of Chinese imports, after China said it would impose duties of $ 75 billions on U.S. goods. Trump’s mixed signals during this weekend’s G7 summit also created confusion on Wall Street.

When both presidents met at the G20 Summit in June, Donald Trump told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he would allow some American companies to sell to Huawei, even though it remains on the Commerce Department’s Entity List. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the Commerce Department would begin accepting applications again, requiring companies to prove that the tech they sell to Huawei would not pose a national security risk.

But one of the reasons no licenses have been granted yet is because the Commerce Department is unclear about what it is supposed to do. Former Commerce department official William Reinsch told Reuters that “nobody in the executive branch knows what [Trump] wants and they’re all afraid to make a decision without knowing that.”

In addition to providing telecom equipment, Huawei is an important customer for many U.S. tech firms, including Qualcomm, Intel and Micron. Out of the $ 70 billion in parts it bought last year, $ 11 billion of that went to U.S. suppliers. The U.S. claims Huawei is a national security risk, a charge the company has repeatedly denied.


TechCrunch

Adam Neumann, the co-founder and chief executive of the international real estate co-working startup, WeWork, has reportedly cashed out of more than $ 700 million from his company ahead of its initial public offering.

The size and timing of the payouts, made through a mix of stock sales and loans secured by his equity in the company, is unusual considering that founders typically wait until after a company holds its public offering to liquidate their holdings.

Despite the loans and sales of stock, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Neumann remains the single largest shareholder in the company.

According to the Journal’s reporting, Neumann has already set up a family office to invest the proceeds and begun to hire financial professionals to run it.

He’s also made significant investments in real estate in New York and San Francisco, including four homes in the greater New York metropolitan area, and a $ 21 million 13,000 square-foot house in the Bay Area complete with a guitar shaped room (I guess a fiddle would be too on the nose). In all, Neumann reportedly spent $ 80 million on real estate.

Neumann has also invested in commercial real estate (the kind that WeWork leases to provide workspace with more flexible leases for companies and entrepreneurs), including properties in San Joes, Calif. and New York. Indeed four of Neumann’s properties are leased to WeWork — to the tune of several million dollars in rent. According to the Journal, Neumann will transfer those property holdings to a WeWork-controlled fund.

The WeWork chief executive has also invested in startups in recent years. He’s got an equity stake in seven companies including: Hometalk, Intercure, EquityBee, Selina, Tunity, Feature.fm, and Pins, according to CrunchBase.

The rewards that Neumann is reaping from the loans and stock sales are among the highest recorded by a private company executive. In recent years, Evan Spiegel sold $ 8 million in stock and borrowed $ 20 million from Snap before its 2017 public offering and Slack Technologies chief executive Stewart Butterfieldsold $ 3.2 million of stock before Slack’s public offering in June.

The only liquidation of stock and other payouts that have been disclosed which come close to Neumann’s payouts are the $ 300 million that GroupOn co-founder Eric Lefkofksy’s sold before his company’s IPO and the over $ 100 million that Mark Pincus took off the table ahead of Zynga’s offering.

WeWork declined to comment for this article.

 


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