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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 07:46 GMT
Softbank slides into the red
Softbank website image
Softbank, the group of internet companies which epitomised the boom in Japan, has recorded its biggest ever six-month loss as the value of its investments has tumbled.

The company said it lost 54.3bn yen (307m; $441m) in the six months to September, having made a profit of 36.3bn yen in the same period last year.

The bulk of the loss came from the slump in internet investments, which Softbank said accounted for 34.8bn yen. Another 16bn yen was lost from shareholdings in affiliated companies.

Beginning of the end

The loss puts the lid on the internet frenzy in Japan.

Throughout the late 90s, Softbank - founded by maverick investor Masayoshi Son - invested in hundreds of start-up companies.

As they progressed to offering shares to the public, Mr Son became a multi-billionaire, and his company at one point was worth more than industrial behemoths such as Honda and Matsushita Electric Industrial.

Yahoo, the internet search engine company, was one early beneficiary of Softbank's investments.

Then came the crash, and with it much of Mr Son's paper fortune as Softbank shares slid more than 60% in the past year.

The firm now concentrates on providing high-speed internet access.

The tumble has prompted that Softbank to order the closure of eight of its 11 offices outside Japan, and get rid of 75 staff - two thirds of its overseas workforce.

Despite the fall in profitability, Softbank sales grew 1.7% to 183.4bn yen, Tuesday's results statement showed.

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