Japanese personal handy-phone systems (PHS) provider Willcom has received an order of termination of rehabilitation proceedings from the Tokyo District Court on 1 July 2013, and will now become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Softbank Mobile, Japan’s third largest cellco in terms of subscribers. According to Softbank’s press release, Willcom is no longer supervised by the District Court after making a substantial repayment of its rehabilitation claims on 7 June 2013, and subsequently filing a petition for termination of the court monitored rehabilitation two weeks later. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Willcom filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2010 with JPY206 billion (USD2.3 billion) in debts. At the time the company also requested aid from the state-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp of Japan (ETIC), Softbank, and Japanese private equity firm Advantage Partners. In December 2010 Softbank Corp went on and acquired 100% of Willcom’s issued shares.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the company had been witnessing declining user numbers on its limited mobility networks, but the 2010 takeover by Softbank and the subsequent introduction of flat-rate wireless tariff plans and flat-rate calling within Japan has brought about something of a renaissance: the company claimed 3.75 million users at end-March 2011, which steadily increased to 4.56 million twelve months later and by 31 March 2013, Willcom’s subscribers had passed the 5.1 million mark. Along with the increase in subscribers, Willcom’s quarterly operating income turned positive in the second quarter of fiscal 2011, and has sustained the positive trend since then.