Softbank (Tokyo, Japan) is to acquire aAccess (Tokyo, Japan), a smaller competitor, in a deal valued at $1.84 billion and designed to help it close the gap with its chief rivals, according to Reuters.
Under a share swap due to be completed in February, Japan’s third-biggest operator will pay 52,000 yen per eAccess share, a substantial premium given eAccess’s share price of 15,070 yen at the end of last week.
Answering analyst questions on the deal, Softbank said the launch of the iPhone 5 had provided the impetus for the takeover.
“We do not think our shareholders will view this as a bad tie-up at all,” he is quoted as saying.
Softbank lost its status as the exclusive provider of the iPhone last year, when number-two player KDDI (Tokyo, Japan) also began offering the device. The two operators have since been locked in a battle for market share.
The takeover would boost Softbank’s subscriber base to 39 million, compared with KDDI’s 36 million, making it the country’s second largest player on that measure, behind NTT DoCoMo (Tokyo, Japan).
While the biggest operator in Japan, NTT DoCoMo is the only one of the main players that does not have a distribution deal in place for Apple’s (Cupertino, USA) iPhone.
Masayoshi Son told reporters that it was worth paying a premium because of the subscribers, cost savings and increased network capacity Softbank would gain.
A company presentation on the deal notes that Softbank and eAccess will together have 30,000 base stations capable of supporting the iPhone 5.
eAccess holds spectrum in the 1.7GHz band that Softbank values as a means of supporting iPhone 5 data traffic sent over LTE networks.
According to Reuters, shares in eAccess jumped by 26.1%, to 19,000 yen, on the Tokyo bourse on Monday, while Softbank closed 1.8% lower, at 3,105 yen.