Japan’s Softbank Corp has reached a basic agreement to buy UK-based Vodafone Group’s approximately 98% stake in Vodafone KK, Japan’s third largest mobile services provider. If completed, the transaction could be worth as much as JPY2 trillion (USD17.2 billion), making it the largest ever acquisition by a Japanese company. Vodafone said on Saturday it had agreed in principle to sell off the unit, and thus exit the market, and Softbank intends to finalise matters this week while performing due diligence on the unit to assess the worth of the asset. It aims to reach a final agreement with the UK operator by end-March and says it will not pursue the outstanding 2% shareholding.
It comes as no surprise that Vodafone is ready to call it a day in Japan. It stunned the Japanese public five years ago when it bought a controlling stake in the then Japan Telecom, and the deal was greeted with scepticism about its ability to succeed in Japan’s demanding mobile phone market.