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Softbank Forms Ventures with News Corp, Vivendi

Japan's Softbank Corp. announced two significant Internet partnerships this week, one with French conglomerate Vivendi and one with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Softbank formed a joint venture with News Corp's Internet subsidiary epartners Capital, Ltd. that will facilitate the rapid market entry of U.S. Internet companies into the U.K, Australia, New Zealand and India.

This venture, to be named eVentures, adopts a similar model that Softbank has used to launch ten Internet companies including: Yahoo! Japan, GeoCities Japan, E*Trade Japan, Broadcast.com Japan, and CarPoint Japan.

"It provides U.S. Internet companies immediate access to the UK, Australian, New Zealand and Indian internet markets. News Corp. has been our long-time partner in Japan and we share a common vision for the internet market," said Masayoshi Son, president & chief executive officer of Softbank Corp.

eVentures, headquartered in London, will be equally owned by Softbank and epartners. The company will begin operations in the U.K. immediately followed by the Australian, New Zealand and Indian internet markets.

Separately, Softbank also revealed a 50-50 venture with France's Vivendi, S.A. which will be called @VISO, S.A.S, and will be used to assist the entry of Softbank's U.S. Internet brands into Continental European markets including France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Both companies have contributed US$50 million to the venture.

According to Softbank representatives, @VISO will take responsibility for the full market launch and ongoing oversight of the European versions of U.S. Web brands.

"Vivendi is a natural partner for us in Continental Europe," said Softbank's Masayoshi Son. "Their vast media and telecommunication assets across Europe make them ideally suited to help U.S. companies address the enormous, emerging market potential swiftly and effectively."

At the same time, Vivendi will invest $200 million in Softbank's new later stage US venture capital fund becoming the fund's second largest investor, after Softbank.

Vivendi and Softbank also intend to cooperate in early stage investments through Viventures and Softbank Technology Ventures.