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Yahoo Japan Store Applications Jump After Son Scraps Fees

Yahoo Japan Headquarters
The Yahoo Japan Corp. logo is displayed at the company's headquarters in Tokyo. Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Yahoo Japan Corp., the nation’s most-visited Web portal, said applications for new stores on its shopping site surged after billionaire Chairman Masayoshi Son eliminated fees for online retail outlets.

About 10,000 applications were received from outlets and 16,000 from individuals, the Tokyo-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. There are currently 20,000 stores on its shopping site, it said.

Scrapping fees to lure outlets is designed to draw customers to Yahoo Japan and help win sales from rivals such as Inc. in the nation’s 4 trillion yen ($41 billion) e-commerce market. Son’s strategy poses a direct challenge to billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani’s Rakuten Inc., which charges to operate stores on the country’s largest Internet shopping mall.

“The challenge for Yahoo has been that its store lineup doesn’t look attractive to customers when compared to Rakuten or Amazon,” said Tomoaki Kawasaki, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Holdings Inc. in Tokyo. “The new strategy seems to be effective to overcome that challenge. Gaining stores will likely lead to an increase in ad revenue.”

Yahoo Japan has slumped since Son announced the plan on Oct. 7. The shares fell 3.7 percent to 515 yen at the close of trade in Tokyo after sliding 6.5 percent yesterday. That is the worst two-day performance for the stock since March 2011.

Yahoo Japan got more than half of last fiscal year’s sales from advertising. The company is 43 percent-owned by Son’s SoftBank Corp., the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, while Yahoo! Inc. owns 35 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

SoftBank fell 5.7 percent to 7,000 yen. The stock was cut to neutral at Citigroup Inc. yesterday.

Most of the new applications Yahoo Japan has received are likely from stores that have limited sales, said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Tokyo-based Shinkin Asset Management Co.

“I don’t think attractive shops that already have secured their positions with other sites like Rakuten will switch to Yahoo all of a sudden,” he said.

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