By Sam Nussey
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp announced a stock split while keeping the per-share dividend unchanged for the year, effectively doubling its shareholder payout, as it also reported a better-than-expected annual profit.
SoftBank's common stock will be split at a two-for-one ratio on June 27, while its dividend will stay at 44 yen per share.
The tech and telecoms group's operating profit for the year ended March rose 80.5 percent to 2.4 trillion yen (16.7 billion pounds), driven by higher valuations of its tech investments.
That was above a 2.1 trillion yen SmartEstimate that gives a greater weighting to top-rated analysts, Refinitiv data shows.
The results come at a time when SoftBank and its almost $100 billion Vision Fund stand at a possible inflection point as some of its biggest tech bets like Uber Technologies head to the public markets, in what investors and industry experts see as a test of its strategy.
SoftBank is also considering listing the Saudi-backed Vision Fund, which has invested roughly $80 billion in around 80 tech firms, a source told Reuters last week.
On Thursday, SoftBank said the value of Vision Fund's investments in 69 companies had risen to $72.3 billion at end-March, from their $60.1 billion acquisition cost, driven by gains at companies like Uber and Indian hotels startup OYO.
SoftBank's transition away from telecoms towards tech investments accelerated with the 2.35 trillion yen listing of a third of its domestic telco SoftBank Corp in December in what is Japan's largest-ever initial public offering.
That provided the funds for a share buyback that has helped drive up SoftBank Group's stock by nearly 60 percent this year. The shares closed up 0.7 percent ahead of the earnings.
On Wednesday, the group said it would sell down its share in Yahoo Japan as SoftBank Corp hiked its stake in the internet firm to 45 percent in a deal that will function as a transfer of funds from the telco to its parent.
The market welcomed the news, with SoftBank Corp's shares up 7 percent on Thursday and Yahoo Japan's shares up 9.4 percent.
SoftBank Group did not provide a forecast for the current financial year, citing uncertain business factors.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Himani Sarkar)