RealTime IT News

Vodafone Battles BT in Japan

London, ENGLAND -- Vodafone's rivalry with BT is set to become most intense in Japan, if widespread reports of an imminent Vodafone bid for AT&T's 10 percent stake in Japan Telecom are accurate.

The acquisition of a further 10 percent would bring Vodafone's holding to 25 percent, giving it more influence than BT which currently owns 20 percent of the Japan telco.

In December 2000, Vodafone purchased a 15 percent stake in Japan Telecom for 249.2 billion yen (US $2.19 billion), setting the stage for the battle with BT. Despite declining values in the industry, Vodafone may have to pay over US $1.5 billion for the holding, according to British newspaper reports.

At the time of Vodafone's orginal investment in Japan Telecom, Chief Executive Chris Gent was very bullish about prospects in the Japanese market -- and it was clear that he would fight aggressively to secure a larger share. He called JT's mobile operator J-Phone "a powerful force in an increasingly competitive Japanese marketplace."

Analysts are now saying that the latest strategic move by Vodafone could prove to be a bitter blow for BT, which is being restructured to concentrate its attention on Western Europe and Japan.

Meanwhile, BT on Monday announced a massive TV and print promotion for its Genie mobile Internet service in the U.K. Commercials shot in London, Hong Kong, New York and Mexico are themed "Same World, Different Planet," and attempt to show how the service can overcome "some of the less attractive aspects of urban living."

According to Genie, its new TV commercials will "juxtapose chaotic images of the rat race and stress with tranquil sounds of the countryside, seaside and laughing."

At least, BT's top management will know how to relax if the going gets really tough in Japan. Let's hope their medicine is as effective as they claim.