February 7, 2019 / 2:44 AM / 10 days ago

Nikkei falls, but SoftBank Group jumps on buyback, robust earnings

* Exporters sold as earnings disappoint

* SoftBank Group adds hefty positive points to Nikkei

* Mazda soars after raising forecast

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks fell on concerns about slowing corporate earnings growth, though SoftBank Group allayed some of the anxiety as its shares jumped after the index-heavy firm announced a share buyback and above-expected third-quarter profits.

The Nikkei share average dropped 0.7 percent to 20,729.32 in midmorning trade.

The broader Topix declined 1 percent to 1,566.70, with all but one of its 33 subsectors in the red.

Exporter stocks were sold off, with Panasonic Corp falling 3.3 percent, Toyota Motor Corp shedding 2.6 percent and Suzuki Motor declining 3.6 percent.

“Many of the Japanese and U.S. companies have cut their earnings forecasts during this earnings season so investors find it difficult to buy,” said Shoji Hirakawa, chief global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, referring to bellwether companies such as Toyota, Hitachi Ltd and Panasonic.

In the United States, disappointing revenue forecasts from videogame companies pulled down the overall market overnight.

Going against the grain, SoftBank Group Corp shares jumped more than 17 percent to a level not seen since mid-October after Chief Executive Masayoshi Son unveiled a $5.5 billion share buyback to prop up its share price, which he sees as undervalued.

SoftBank contributed a hefty 156 points to the Nikkei.

Analysts said the big share buyback announcement was the icing on top of SoftBank’s robust earnings.

Buoyed by rising valuations of its technology investments, SoftBank Group’s operating profit in the October-December quarter rose to 438.3 billion yen from 274 billion yen a year earlier. That handily beat the 225 billion yen average estimate of three analysts polled by Refinitiv which gives a higher weighting to top-rated analysts.

Bucking the weak market, Mazda Motor Corp also surged 8.4 percent after the automaker forecast a full-year operating profit of 80 billion yen, up from a previous forecast of 70 billion yen.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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