SoftBank in talks to acquire Willcom: report

Dylan Bushell-Embling
30 Nov 2009

Japan's third largest mobile operator, SoftBank, has reportedly made an offer to acquire debt-laden personal handyphone service (PHS) operator Willcom.

Willcom, which is struggling with around 93.5 billion yen ($1.08 billion) in debt, has received offers from Softbank and private investment firms, people familiar with the negotiations told the Yomiuri Shimbun.

But SoftBank will not acquire Willcom unless its creditors forgive part of the PHS operator's debts, they added.

As SoftBank is the only suitor with telecom experience, it is reportedly the favored choice of Willcom’s controlling shareholder, private equity firm Carlyle Group.

SoftBank for its part is eager to acquire Willcom's 4 million mobile subscribers, and the parts of its PHS technology capable of high-speed data-transmission.

Carlyle acquired a 60% stake in Willcom for $1.26 billion in 2005. Willcom is also 30% owned by vendor Kyocera and 10% by Softbank rival KDDI.

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