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Softbank to Buy Fukuoka Baseball Stadium for 87 Billion Yen

Softbank Corp., Japan’s second-biggest mobile-phone company by market value, agreed to buy the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome for 87 billion yen ($1.1 billion) from Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

The stadium is the home of the Softbank Hawks baseball team and is being offered on loan, the phone company said in a statement on its website. The Yahoo! Dome, which opened in April 1993 as Japan’s first stadium with a retractable roof, is also used for events including concerts, according to the website of Hawks Town, which has a floor area of 176,000 square meters.

The stadium is sold as Japan’s real estate market recovers from last year’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Tokyo’s office vacancy rates fell last month, according to Miki Shoji Co. The Real Estate Economic Research Institute’s data showed the number of condominiums offered for sale in the city climbed 13 percent, while government said land prices rebounded in the country’s northeast region affected by the temblor.

“The property market in Japan seems to have bottomed out,” said Vasu Menon, a vice president of wealth management at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. “We’ve seen so many false dawns in Japan, it’s difficult to say whether that’s going to be sustained.”

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average jumped 18 percent this year, the most among Asia’s 10 biggest stock markets.

Usage Fee

GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund that manages more than $100 billion, acquired the Fukuoka Hawks Town in 2007, Mah Lay Choon, a spokeswoman at the company, said in an e-mailed response to queries. The property consists of the stadium designed with the Roman Coliseum motif, the 1,052-room Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk hotel and the Hawks Town Mall.

“The purchase will eliminate the annual usage fee of 5 billion yen that we’ve been paying to the GIC,” Takeaki Nukii, a Softbank spokesman, said by phone from Tokyo on March 24. “It also allows us to refurbish the facility as we like.”

GIC said in July when it released its annual report that it boosted investments in emerging economies to tap their potentially higher returns. The fund, the biggest investor in companies including Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG, seeks to boost assets to tackle crises and meet the city-state’s long-term spending needs. GIC’s ranked the world’s eighth-largest state investment company by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

Emerging-market stocks made up 15 percent of GIC’s holdings from 10 percent a year earlier, while those in developed economies fell to 34 percent from 41 percent, it said in the report. So-called alternative investments were little changed at 26 percent of its portfolio, with real estate increased to 10 percent from 9 percent, it said.

Promoting Business

Softbank said when it agreed to buy the Hawks in 2004 that it expected Internet content related to the team to help promote its business as it was Japan’s baseball champion in the previous year. Softbank sold 65 billion yen of bonds in 2009, naming the issue Fukuoka Softbank Hawks Bond after the team.

Softbank, the first carrier to sell Apple Inc.’s iPhone in Japan, is also increasing its investment in technology. It said March 1 it will increase equipment spending by 100 billion yen after receiving a new spectrum license allowing it to expand data capacity.

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