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Softbank's E*Trade Japan to Buy Japanese Brokerage

Softbank Corp. in Tokyo, the core of billionaire Masayoshi Son's Internet empire, said its joint venture with online trading specialist E*Trade Group Inc. agreed to buy an unlisted Japanese brokerage, and may also acquire a South Korean brokerage.

E*Trade Japan K.K., a joint venture between Softbank and Palo Alto, CA-based E*Trade, agreed to pay an undisclosed sum for Osawa Securities Co., a brokerage that has lost money the past seven years, Bloomberg News reported.

With the purchase, E*Trade Japan gains Osawa's license to trade stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, crucial to E*Trade Japan's goal of handing online transaction of stocks, bonds, investment trusts and other products. E*Trade Japan, in which Softbank owns a 58% stake, aims to take advantage of deregulated trading commissions as part of Japan's financial reforms.

E*Trade Japan, which was established in June, hopes to start providing online brokerage services beginning next year. Brokerage competition includes Sony Corp., the Japanese electronics giant, which said on Sept. 22 that it's in talks with Charles Schwab Corp. and others to enter the online brokerage business in Japan.

Softbank, the largest computer software wholesaler in Japan, has spent more than $3.5 billion in recent years to acquire major stakes in more than 30 Internet companies.

In early July, Softbank agreed to pay $400 million for 27.2% of E*Trade Group Inc. Softbank also owns 31% of Yahoo! Inc., 35% of GeoCities, and 71% of Ziff- Davis Inc., Bloomberg said.