TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group is increasing its stake in Yahoo Japan through a $2 billion, three-way deal with U.S. firm Altaba to deepen ties with the internet heavyweight ahead of an IPO of its telecoms unit.
Under the deal, SoftBank will buy 221 billion yen ($2 billion) of Yahoo Japan shares from Altaba, formerly internet giant Yahoo Inc. Yahoo Japan will then buy back 220 billion of stock from SoftBank.
As a result of the transaction SoftBank’s stake in Yahoo Japan will rise to 48.17 percent from 42.95 percent with just a $9 million net investment. Altaba, Yahoo Japan’s second largest shareholder, will have about 27 percent and end a joint venture partnership.
SoftBank said in a statement on Tuesday the deal will strengthen cooperation between the company, one of Japan’s big three telecoms firms, and Yahoo Japan, an internet heavyweight in areas such as news and shopping.
The synergies between SoftBank and Yahoo Japan are “consistent with SoftBank Group’s broader strategic synergy group initiative,” SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said in the statement.
SoftBank and its Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund standing at over $93 billion as of May last year, have been taking minority stakes in technology companies around the world that Son believes will come to dominate their respective fields.
The news of the Yahoo Japan deal comes as SoftBank prepares to list its domestic telecoms unit in what could be the largest Japanese IPO in nearly two decades.
Yahoo Japan could use SoftBank’s telecom services to boost demand for online shopping and mobile payments among Japan’s increasingly net-savvy shoppers. SoftBank, through Yahoo Japan and others, is offering its mobile users an increasingly wide range of top-up services in addition to a basic phone subscription.
Yahoo Japan’s shares were up nearly 12 percent in early afternoon Tokyo trading. Despite that jump, its shares are down more than 22 percent this year.
“It’s clear that using excess funds for share buybacks is the only way Yahoo Japan has to hold up its share price,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments. The firm does not hold positions in Yahoo Japan or SoftBank.
Altaba has been selling down its Yahoo Japan stake. Two Altaba appointments to the Yahoo Japan board will step down as a result of the transaction announced on Tuesday.
SoftBank shares were up 2 percent, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index up 1 percent.
Reporting by Sam Nussey and Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman