SoftBank's Son Names Arora New President

SoftBank President and CEO Masayoshi Son has revealed that former Google executive Nikesh Arora is to succeed him as president of a new-look SoftBank with bolder ambitions in international and Internet markets.

Arora quit his role as senior vice president and chief business officer of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) last July to join the Japanese operator as vice chairman of SoftBank Corp. and CEO of SoftBank Internet and Media.

But in a press conference convened in Tokyo earlier today, Son revealed he would shortly make way for Arora as president while continuing to hold the titles of CEO and chairman.

Son told reporters that he and Arora would together lead a business whose name would change from SoftBank Corp to SoftBank Group Corp to reflect a "second stage" of its growth focusing on investments in overseas and Internet ventures.

The move represents a dramatic change for SoftBank, whose president has always been Son, and suggests that Arora is being groomed to replace Son entirely.

Arora will also hold the title of chief operating officer of SoftBank Group Corp, confirmed Son.

"Arora is well versed in the best technology and the business models of a globally famous Internet company and he has connections with other Internet companies," said Son. "With his expertise and insight he could serve as a great partner in leading the new SoftBank."

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

Son announced news of Arora's appointment as SoftBank reported a 28.5% increase in net profit for the financial year ending in March, to 668.4 billion ($5.58 billion) Japanese yen, with sales rising by 30.1%, to ¥8,670.2 billion ($72.35 billion).

The sales figures were heavily flattered by merger activity, including the full-year consolidation of results from Brightstar Corp. , a handset distributor it bought in 2013, as well as the takeover of US mobile operator Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), whose results only showed up from July 2013 onwards in the previous financial year. (See SoftBank Profits Tumble on Sprint Costs.)

SoftBank's revenues were also buoyed by organic growth at Supercell, a Finnish games maker in which it acquired a 51% stake in 2013.

Net profit received a boost from the US listing of Alibaba Group , a Chinese Internet business in which SoftBank owns shares.

SoftBank has acquired stakes in a number of technology startups in Asia and Masayoshi Son was reported in November last year to have said he wants to focus his own efforts on taking stakes of between 30% and 40% in Internet companies based in the region.

In the meantime, he is still being forced to defend his $21.6 billion takeover of Sprint, which reported another disappointing set of quarterly results last week, losing 201,000 postpaid phone customers and flagging a net loss of $224 million for the January-to-March quarter. (See Sprint Loses $224M in Q4.)

Son insisted that Sprint's performance had improved since the appointment of Marcelo Claure, formerly at Brightstar, as chief executive, noting improvements in the overall base of postpaid users, which includes customers using tablet devices.

"Until the appointment of Claure, Sprint lost customers every quarter but that trend was recently reversed and we have regained confidence in gaining subscribers," he said. "I am confident about new design ideas that will improve Sprint's network significantly."

Son's remarks came after Sprint presented its vision of a next-generation network comprising a mixture of macro-site and small cells. (See Sprint Maps Out Its Next-Generation Network.)

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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