Softbank Continues Yahoo! Purge

Softbank, one of Japan’s largest broadband investors, started its latest
Yahoo! purge Thursday, selling 30 million shares in
private and open market deals.

More than a third were picked up by Yahoo! itself, for a cool $100 million.

The sale comes almost two weeks after Softbank subsidiary Nasdaq Japan was
shut down. With an equity stake of 43 percent, officials said they would
lose all of its roughly $10 million investment in the company.

The investment firm, which specializes in broadband Internet companies, has
been shedding stock like crazy the past year to continue funding its
digital subscriber line (DSL) service using Yahoo! BB, the leading
competitor to Japan’s incumbent Nippon Telephone & Telegraph .

Ron Fisher, Softbank Holdings, Inc., vice chairman, said the move was
consistent with its plans to diversify funds in other areas and “our need
to fund our broadband operations in Japan.”

Both providers have been waging an all-out price war to become the dominant
DSL provider in the nation, much to the joy of Japanese technophiles and
the chagrin of its shareholders. With a price/speed package that would
have any American broadband user drooling, the two offer DSL under $20 U.S.
for 1.5 Mbps download speeds and $23 for up to 8 Mbps.

NTT, the incumbent telephone company in Japan, has been able to buffer its
broadband losses with its varied revenue sources (similar to the U.S., with
voice and business T-1 service). Yahoo! BB, on the other hand, doesn’t
have that luxury, so is forced to look elsewhere for money.

This is Softbank’s third sale of Yahoo! common shares, bringing its
investment stake in the company to seven percent. In the heyday of its
Yahoo! involvement, 1996, Softbank owned 37 percent of the popular portal
company.

But in the past year or so, the sale of Yahoo! stock has become a
habit. In December 2001, Softbank sold off three
percent
of its Yahoo! stake shortly after the portal company started
dealing with SBC Communications . Then, in April, Softbank
garnered another $171
million
from the sale of 2.7 percent of its shares to Yahoo!

Thursday was no different, and Yahoo! executives couldn’t be
happier. Surviving relatively unscathed from the dot com collapse,
Yahoo!’s DSL marriage with SBC will likely bear fruit next year and its
board of directors have been steadily buying back shares every time
Softbank puts them on the block.

Susan Deckeer, Yahoo! chief financial officer, said the buyback of
11,074,197 shares is part of its long-range strategy to enhance shareholder
value.

“This transaction demonstrates Yahoo!’s belief that we are well-positioned
to deliver long-term growth and profitability,” she said.

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