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SoftBank Names Nikesh Arora President and Son's Likely Successor

The former Google executive will take on his new role June 19.

Asa Mathat

Japan’s SoftBank unveiled a management reshuffle on Monday, appointing investments head Nikesh Arora as president and naming him as a potential successor to CEO Masayoshi Son, as the telecoms conglomerate steps up its overseas expansion.

The move comes as Son and SoftBank are battling to make their 2013 acquisition of U.S. carrier Sprint for more than $20 billion profitable. A sluggish Japanese economy, though, has forced the company to increasingly look overseas for growth.

Announcing Arora’s appointment at SoftBank’s earnings conference, billionaire Son, who is relinquishing the president’s post, said the former Google executive was a “strong candidate” to lead the company in future.

“Yes. He’s 10 years younger than me, and he has more abilities than me,” Son told reporters, when asked if Arora was a potential candidate to succeed him.

“The last nine months I’ve spent with him have made me sure of that, but I’m not going to retire soon,” Son said.

Arora was hired in July to run a newly created unit called SoftBank Internet and Media, reporting directly to Son. He became one of the most powerful Google executives, and the highest paid in 2012, when he made $51 million in cash and stock.

Arora will assume his new role on June 19.

SoftBank has been weighed down by the costs of trying to turn around Sprint, which has been in intense competition with larger U.S. rivals AT&T and Verizon.

Sprint, in which SoftBank owns 80 percent, has undergone a long-haul revamping of its network, shedding thousands of jobs and triggering a mass exodus of subscribers.

SoftBank has made a string of other investments in recent years, including $250 million in privately held Hollywood movie studio Legendary Entertainment and $600 million in Travice, the operator of Chinese taxi hailing app Kuaidi Dache.

As well as being the largest investor in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, SoftBank has plans to invest $10 billion in India’s potentially huge but underdeveloped online retail market.

“We expect more investments and acquisitions, even more so than now,” Son said. “Going forward, the overseas market will be the main factor for SoftBank.”

SoftBank posted a 9 percent drop in operating profit for the year ended March to 982.7 billion yen ($8.2 billion), hurt by the absence of one-time gains enjoyed the year before.

That compared with its own forecast of 900 billion yen and was a shade better than the 980.87 billion average estimate of 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.

(Reporting by Teppei Kasai; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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