Rumor Mill: Softbank to sell stake in eAccess to asuage Japanese regulators

Softbank plans to sell around 67 percent of its stake in Japanese telecoms company eAccess to Samsung Electronics and others in a bid to ease concerns from Japanese regulators that it owns too much spectrum, according to multiple reports.

The rumored deal comes as Softbank and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) seek regulatory approval for Softbank's $20.1 billion purchase of 70 percent of Sprint, which will involve a substantial acquisition of spectrum and may raise similar concerns from U.S. regulators.

The reports, from Reuters and Nikkei, cited unnamed sources who said Softbank is looking to offload the stake to Samsung and perhaps 10 other companies, including Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks. Nikkei reported that if Softbank slashes its eAccess stake to below one-third, Softbank will be able to skirt Japanese government policy on spectrum allocation and ease concerns that it holds a monopoly on airwaves. Softbank bought eAccess for $1.84 billion in October as part of a battle with rival KDDI.

The rumored deal is notable in light of the significant amount of spectrum Softbank will own if it acquires Sprint. Sprint is also in the process of acquiring Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), which commands around 160 MHz of spectrum in the top 100 markets. The Clearwire deal is contingent on Softbank's deal for Sprint being approved.

However, Sprint's deal for Clearwire has been complicated by Dish Network, which last week announced an unsolicited counterbid for Clearwire. Dish has also argued that Softbank and Sprint would hold too much spectrum if the two deals go through.

According to Reuters, Softbank said over the weekend that it had no news to announce, but that it continues to consider its options regarding its shareholdings.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article
- see this AFP article

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