Japan’s SoftBank to acquire majority stake in Line’s mobile unit

FILE PHOTO: A man talks on the phone as he stands in front of an advertising poster of the SoftBank telecommunications company in Tokyo October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

Japan’s Line Corp said on Wednesday that it had entered an agreement with SoftBank Group Corp to give the telecoms and technology firm a majority stake in Line’s mobile unit.

Line said SoftBank would hold a 51 percent stake in the mobile business after the issuance of new shares, with Line holding the remaining 49 percent.

Myriad companies have entered Japan’s telecoms market in recent years through the use of virtual networks – where capacity is leased from conventional operators – including Line, which launched its mobile service in September 2016 leasing capacity from Japan’s top wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo Inc.

Growth among the mobile virtual network operators has done little to challenge the dominance of the big three players – NTT DoCoMo, KDDI Corp and SoftBank – despite the encouragement of regulators keen to drive down user fees.

Rakuten Inc’s announcement in December that it aims to become Japan’s fourth wireless carrier points to a broader shakeup of the telecoms industry, with SoftBank this month saying it is considering listing its domestic wireless business.

Separately on Tuesday, Line said it intended to use its popular messaging app to begin offering users financial services including cryptocurrency trading, loans and insurance.

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