AS A student, the 58-year-old founder of SoftBank, a Japanese telecoms firm, resolved to dream up one computer-related business idea a day. When Masayoshi Son saw, at that time, a picture of a new Intel chip in a science magazine, he cut it out and kept it with him for years. So it fits that his biggest acquisition should be in semiconductors. On July 18th he said SoftBank would buy ARM Holdings, a British company that designs processing chips, for £24 billion ($32 billion).

After Nikesh Arora, a former Google executive whom Mr Son named as his successor only a year ago, abruptly left SoftBank in June, investors had anticipated a shift in strategy. Mr Arora invested over $3 billion in a smattering of global startups. Mr Son had seemed to refocus on paying down his firm’s massive net debt, which reached over $80 billion at the end of March, a ratio of four times gross operating profits. Sprint, its struggling American telecoms subsidiary, which it bought for $39 billion in 2013, accounts for about $30 billion of that debt. SoftBank agreed to sell some assets, including a stake in Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant.

But investors who...Continue reading