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Softbank Sells EAccess Stake to Samsung, Nokia Siemens Units

Softbank Corp. (9984), Japan’s third- largest mobile-phone company, will reduce its stake in eAccess Ltd. by offering new shares of the smaller carrier to companies including a Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) subsidiary.

Eleven companies will buy the shares in a transaction today, Tokyo-based Softbank said in a statement. Softbank’s voting rights in the company will be reduced to 33.29 percent, it said.

Softbank, which agreed in October to buy a $20 billion stake in Sprint Nextel Corp., was considering reducing its stake in eAccess to one-third after completing a 180 billion-yen ($2 billion) acquisition of the Tokyo-based company on Jan. 1, Softbank President Masayoshi Son said Oct. 31. Softbank reached a takeover agreement with eAccess on Oct. 1 and made it wholly owned Jan. 1.

EAccess needs independence to expand its business, Softbank said in a statement today. The impact on Softbank’s earnings by the share offer is negligible, according to the statement.

The transaction is probably aimed at smoothing the company’s relationship with regulators, Hitoshi Hayakawa, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo, said by phone today. The merger of Softbank and eAccess shortly after each company received new bandwidth was problematic, a member of a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications panel said Oct. 10, according to ministry’s website.

Nokia Siemens

“It’s a transaction of formality,” Hayakawa said. “Voting rights are spread into many companies without anyone having a significant control.”

The eAccess transaction, scheduled to complete by the end of today, is divided into three steps, according to the statement. Softbank will transfer all eAccess shares to the smaller carrier, which will then issue two types of new shares to Softbank in exchange.

The buyers of the new shares include Orix Corp. and a unit of Nokia Siemens Networks Oy. The price was undisclosed.

Nam Ki Yung, a spokesman for Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics, declined to comment.

Softbank, which agreed to buy eAccess for about triple the smaller company’s market value, made the acquisition in part to meet demand for bandwidth from users of Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5, Son said in October. EAccess’s network for Long-Term Evolution data transmission can help Softbank maintain service levels as it signs on more smartphone subscribers that stream video and surf the Internet.

Sprint Deal

Softbank rose 2.1 percent to close at 2,997 yen in Tokyo today, before the announcement. Son controls about 20 percent of the mobile-phone operator, which was the first to offer the iPhone in Japan.

Softbank, the fastest-growing Japanese mobile-phone provider, boosted earnings by more than sevenfold during the past four years as iPhone soared in popularity. That helped it close the gap with larger NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp.

Softbank agreed in October to pay $20.1 billion to acquire about a 70 percent stake in Sprint as the Japanese mobile-phone operator, faced with a declining local market, seeks growth overseas.

Handset shipments tumbled 27 percent in Japan during the past five years. With the Softbank investment, Sprint can fund a faster expansion of its 4G wireless network, pay down debt or make more acquisitions meant to challenge bigger competitors Verizon Wireless (VZ) and AT&T Inc. (T)

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at myasu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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