Sprint parent SoftBank considered a potential suitor for Yahoo's Internet business

The Japanese telecom and digital media giant SoftBank is considered a prime candidate as a buyer for Yahoo's core Internet business, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Any such deal would likely have a major impact on Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier, which SoftBank acquired in 2013.

The Journal reported earlier this week that Yahoo is considering unloading the business, which could include mobile apps and websites that draw more than 600 million mobile users a month. Those properties include a range of apps such as games, email, messaging, weather and fantasy sports. The company recently saw some success live-streaming an NFL game and is reportedly in talks with the league to add a streaming component to Thursday Night Football.

Yahoo also owns the app analytics firm Flurry, which it acquired last year for $240 million.

The properties are an underpinning of Yahoo's mobile advertising business, which will claim 2.9 percent of U.S. mobile advertising revenues this year, according to estimates from eMarketer. Yahoo has largely failed to monetize its core Internet business, however, which is currently valued at less than zero by Wall Street.

SoftBank's Japanese mobile network, which is one of the nation's three largest, serves as a platform for a variety of its other digital offerings. SoftBank is the largest shareholder in Yahoo Japan Corp., and it claims a 32 percent stake in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group. It also owns 73.2 percent of the mobile gaming giant Supercell, which counts Clash of Clans among its franchises.

The company could conceivably employ the same strategy in the U.S., using Yahoo's properties to lure consumers to Sprint as SoftBank expands its media business in the lucrative U.S. market. Such offerings could include mobile entertainment, m-commerce, news and social media.

The move would also help Sprint build a business as an "over-the-top" player, delivering mobile products and services to users who aren't necessarily Sprint subscribers. That's becoming a key strategy for U.S. carriers: Verizon is pursuing it with its Go90 video streaming app; AT&T may do the same with Otter Media, its video joint venture with the Chernin Group.

SoftBank has expanded its worldwide footprint under new President Nikesh Arora, a former Google executive who joined the company last year, with investments in the Indian personal transportation company OlaCabs and the Indian online marketplace Snapdeal, among others. But an acquisition of Yahoo's Internet business may not align with an expansion strategy that appears to focus on emerging markets.

"I think the U.S. Internet business is not so attractive for SoftBank at the moment," Satoru Kikuchi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, told the Journal. "They want to focus more on Asia."

For more:
- see this WSJ article

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