Japan's Softbank sells two-thirds of recent eAccess acquisition

The Japanese operator said it sold control to 11 firms including Samsung and Alcatel-Lucent subsidiaries

Japan's Softbank has sold off a large portion of a local carrier it acquired just weeks ago, as it looked to assuage fears over its expanded control of Japan's wireless spectrum.

The company, which runs one of Japan's largest mobile operators, said Thursday it sold off two-thirds of the voting shares in eAccess, a rival operator that focuses mainly on data services. Softbank made eAccess a subsidiary on Jan. 1.

Softbank had faced concerns that the purchase would give it too big a share of Japan's wireless bands, which are tightly regulated by the government. The company said that it informed Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of its intention to possibly sell off the stake in November.

The shares were sold to 11 buyers, including subsidiaries of Samsung Electronics, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens, as well as several Japanese financial firms. Each now owns about a 6 percent voting stake in eAccess.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, though any income could help finance another Softbank acquisition, its deal to acquire U.S. operator Sprint for US$20 billion.

Softbank, led by charismatic founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, announced it had signed a $2 billion deal to acquire eAccess in October. The operator, which has piled on users in recent years but struggled with a reputation for poor network service, said the acquisition would help it quickly add high-speed LTE infrastructure, as well as access to more network frequencies.

Two weeks later, Softbank revealed another blockbuster deal, its agreement to acquire a majority stake in Sprint Nextel. Softbank is expected to aggressively compete on price in the U.S. market, a tactic it has used effectively at home in Japan.

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