SoftBank eyeing a stake in wireless distributor Brightstar

Sprint (NYSE:S) parent SoftBank is continuing its buying streak, and it indicated Wednesday that it is in talks to take a stake in U.S. wireless device distributor Brightstar Corp.

SoftBank confirmed the activity, which was made public in a Tokyo stock exchange filing. SoftBank said in a statement: "We are in discussions on this matter but at this time we have not made any decision."

The Japanese Nikkei newspaper earlier reported SoftBank is in talks to buy a majority stake in Brightstar in a deal that could be worth more than $1 billion, though it didn't identify the source of the information, according to Bloomberg. The newspaper said SoftBank could boost its stake to 70 percent eventually, and might close the deal by year-end.

A Brightstar spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

The new move comes a day after SoftBank's mobile game subsidiary, GungHo Online Entertainment, agreed to pay $1.53 billion for a majority stake in Supercell, the Finnish game developer of the popular tablet game "Clash of Clans." SoftBank's $21.6 billion deal to take control of Sprint closed in July; SoftBank now controls around 80 percent of Sprint.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has said that one of the key advantages of the Sprint deal was to boost the company's bargaining power with handset makers. "The volume effects and bargaining effects should begin to emerge in handsets in about six months to a year," Son said September, referring to the Sprint acquisition, according to Reuters. "Our negotiating power has got a major boost."

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Sprint and SoftBank are looking to squeeze efficiencies as a result of their deal. As part of that effort, the report, said, Sprint is likely to join Buying & Innovation Group LLC, a newly created venture between SoftBank and Brightstar. The report cited an internal memo, dated Aug. 29, that said BIG will serve as a "buying entity" for member companies. BIG will be led by Fared Adib, who had been Sprint's senior vice president for product development, the report said. The report said he will become chief product and innovation officer and spend most of his time at an office in Silicon Valley. David Owens will become vice president for product development and take over Adib's responsibilities for product development.

Privately held Brightstar purchases handsets from more than 100 manufacturers including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Sony, and supplies carriers around the world. Brightstar also handles all trade-in and phone buy-back programs for SoftBank.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this separate Bloomberg article

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