Softbank to sell eAccess stakes to Samsung, others

TOKYO: Japanese telecommunications firm Softbank has decided to sell a two-thirds stake in eAccess, a smaller mobile service provider, to Samsung Electronics and 10 other companies, according to reports.

Softbank, which last year signed a $20 billion takeover of US firm Sprint Nextel, is in talks with 11 possible buyers, including Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks as well as Japanese firms, the Nikkei newspaper said on Saturday.

Cutting its eAccess stake to below one-third will enable Softbank to skirt the government policy on spectrum allocation to telecom service providers, the Nikkei said.

Softbank turned eAccess into a wholly-owned subsidiary on January 1, and will remain its top shareholder with a 33-percent stake, major media said.

But the communications ministry has viewed the purchase as running counter to the policy of allocating frequency bands fairly to cellphone carriers, Kyodo News said.

Softbank is working towards selling a roughly six percent interest to each of the 11 companies by the end of this month, the Nikkei said.

The company hopes that the sales could also facilitate better development and upgrades of its telecommunications network by strengthening ties with major foreign firms, the Nikkei said.

Softbank also wants to tap the foreign partners' know-how to improve its services, the Nikkei said.

To prevent any impact on its American operations, Softbank has opted not to let any Chinese companies buy the eAccess shares, the Nikkei said.

The US Congress has expressed concerns about the use of Chinese communications equipment in the country.

- AFP/al

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